Picnic at the beach
Well, there are beaches and there are beaches, and you don't give a clue as to what kind of beach you're talking about. A look at your profile page and the threads you've posted in, my GUESS would be you're in the Chicago area. I grew up in California, and have no idea what a lake beach is like.
That said, SOME beaches have fire rings and/or barbecues. Which brings me to my point. My FAVOURITE beach foods are hot dogs. Everyone roasts and toasts for themselves over a fire using a stick or a coat hangar to char the dog, Huge bags of potato chips, a container of potato salad for the snobby ones, Lots of iced soft drinks and a few beers, ice cold watermelon to slice there (because it's messier that way) and S'Mores for dessert. Save your stick or coat hanger for the marshmallows. For me, if this Isn't the beach picnic menu, then it's not a "picnic," we're just "eating at the beach." '-)
You guessed right! I am from Chicago. My sisters and I just packed simple sandwiches. Ham, turkey, and peanut butter ones. We made them without mayo because we were worried. We had an assortment of chips and cookies. We had a great orzo salad. Frozen grapes. It was simple but good.
gazpacho in a thermos is fun, refreshing and delicious -- made with good, ripe local tomatoes.
i like tortellini salad marinated in an oregano vinaigrette overnight, with olives, mozz cubes, red bell pepper chunks and pepperoni chunks, too (maybe fresh torn basil added after the marination).
alkapal, I *love* the gazpacho in a thermos idea. Here, for years, we've been bringing drink fixin's to the beach separately, along with plenty of ice, and in a big, clunky cooler!
Of course, *our* gazpacho would contain a little bit of Stolichnaya...
In answer to the OP, for some reason coleslaw jumps out at me. Whether we brought stuff to grill (on those awful public charcoal receptacles) or just some cold chicken and good rolls, coleslaw's always been part of our beach repast.
The most decadent we ever did (at Sherwood Island in Westport, Connecticut) was to open clams and oysters -- that was the other end of the "convenience" spectrum...
Although we've not really spent time at the beach in a few years, I'd hazard a guess that our picnic basket, if taken this weekend, would include a few sandwiches made from good Italian bread, hot capicola and roast beef in even amounts, tomato, onion and a little oil & vinegar (hopefully with that awful dried basil they use in those sandwich-shop vinaigrettes). Potato-egg salad is also a must, for us, lately. Although some folks are still scared by the mayonnaise/egg salad thing (it's not true).
A memorable sea-side repast was created for us by the (now closed) Hay Day in Westport. They packed pate for us, caviar, smoked salmon, breads and a fabulous dark green salad. Mixers were included in their own well-iced disposable (styro) cooler. Of course, we provided the bubbly and the vodka!
Have fun and enjoy. But given all my boozy sea-side advice; please be sure you use moderation in the sun, and hydrate with plenty of bottled water or you'll end up in the E.R. at Norwalk hospital as I did one year!
The only beach food that I can think about are the foods of my childhood that were made by my mother and toted to the beach by my father in a huge cooler. Sausage and peppers on Italian bread, potato frittata also on Italian bread, and, for some unknown reason, bologna sandwiches on white bread. Everything always tastes a little better with some sand liberally sprinkled by the wind...
Think finger foods and things that don't need to be kept ice cold, can't get too sandy and are refreshing:
"Ants on a log" celery sticks
Carrots and Hummus
Tea sandwiches - watercress blended with some cream cheese with thin slices of radish between pumpernickle bread with the crusts cut off
Potato chips add salt that tastes so good on a hot day.
A picnic safe coleslaw: red cabbage and carrots shredded with rice wine vinager, seasame oil and toasted seasame seeds.
Jug of spa water - spring water with slices of lemon, lime and cucumber for a little extra flavor.
Shameless plug for my picnic blog that needs updating: www.grazinginthegrass.wordpress.com