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Packing the Perfect Portable Feast

For the hungry hiker

EDITH STOVEL, author of ``Picnic!'' (Pownal, Vt.: Garden Way) devotes an entire section of her book to ``Picnics in a pack.'' She writes: ``Packing just enough to come out even, so as not to lug excess food or trash home, is always a challenge for the backpacker. The same planning is required for a picnic in a pack. With the fresh air and exercise, pinickers will be hungry. One deserves to eat heartily after vigorous exercise. ``Be generous but not excessive with the food. Use lightweight food containers and bring several packs; one for cold items, one for hot, one for the food that doesn't need either cold or hot, and one for the nonfood items. Be sure everyone gets to carry a pack.''

Ms. Stovel, who has enjoyed hiking in the foothills of the Coastal Range in northern California and Massachusetts' Berkshires, offers a menu appropriate for a day hike, and especially good for a hot day.

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``It's important to bring water, because you don't know what is going to be available,'' she says in a phone interview. ``It's good to bring something to sit on. Also take bags to collect trash so you don't leave garbage in the woods.'' GORP - a combination of chocolate, nuts, and raisins - is always one food option, and a hiking favorite.

ICED CUCUMBER SOUP 5 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks 5 fresh mint leaves 2 cups buttermilk 2 cups chicken stock 1 tablespoon lime juice 1/2 teaspoon salt 8 mint leaves for garnish

Place the cucumbers and five mint leaves in a blender or food processor and whirl to a fine pur'ee. Pour the pur'ee into a two-quart pitcher. Add the buttermilk, chicken stock, lime juice, and salt. Mix well.

Chill the soup for at least one hour until it is icy cold, then pour into thermos bottles. Put the mint leaves in a small plastic bag and at the picnic, garnish each serving with a mint leaf. Serves 8. FOR A DAY HIKE Iced cucumber soup Lemony chicken Red potato salad with fresh peas Brownies Grapes

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