Yes it is that time of year again! Sun, sandwiches and a cool glass of something fresh is just what is required to enjoy our summer days to the maximum. So, whether you are picnicking at the beach, the park or the riverside there are some essential picnicking basics which we must be aware of to make the most of our chilled out day.
Where does the word ‘picnic’ originate from? The word picnic was first in print in the 1700s and is thought to have entered our language from either French or German. We know the word was already known in France, Germany and also Sweden before it became part of the British language.
The first picnics in Britain were celebrated during medieval times. They evolved from outdoor feasts which were held by the wealthiest people in the country. So, we can say with certitude that the traditional picnic, which we are accustomed to today, had its roots with the hunting feasts and Renaissance era country banquets.
It all sounds rather posh and dignified doesn’t it? You would not be mistaken for thinking this. And, picnics in Victorian times were somewhat elaborate as well. It is true to say the Victorians were not known to scrimp on the diet. Some of their feasts consisted of whole pigeons!
Long live the picnic
There is also something quite nostalgic and romantic about picnics. Firstly, they often had an important place in literature including Dickens and Austen. When it comes to art work there are no shortage of beautiful paintings of picnics and this is evident in the works of Manet, Monet and Cezanne.
So it is fair to say that the concept of the ‘picnic’ is not just the practicalities. Picnics aren’t just a quick lunch but rather there is an attitude towards it. This attitude encompasses etiquette, mood and manners. It is considered that the main etiquette of a picnic is to put the ‘other’ first and to make them feel wonderful. The mood must be light and agreeable and manners up to scratch, so please do not forget the all-important napkins. If you’re going to do something – do it properly, right?
Picnics have not always been an extravagant feast as following world war two times were very hard and the standard picnic consisted of a salad, a sandwich and an apple. The idea of the sandwich being a popular, ideal picnic snack is still current in Britain today and very often the British would not think of their picnic being fully complete without a sandwich.
Although the ‘sandwich’ is the perfect picnic classic there are some appetising alternatives on offer which are easy to buy and pack – such are sausage rolls, scotch eggs and Melton Mowbray Pies. In the past the Melton Mowbray pie was easy for the farmer to place in his pocket and it is equally practical for the modern day picnic.
The food and drink which we select for our picnic is very important. Not only do we want to avoid indigestion, excessive eating and over-indulging on alcohol but we want the contents of our picnic basket to reflect our appetite, preferences and desired humour. Therefor fast, convenience items which offer a quick sugar rush then slump are definitely off the menu.
At i the stylist we are only too aware of reader’s conscientious approach to food – such as avoiding waste and taking care of the countryside. Some solutions include buying foods in season. This avoids food becoming damaged and inedible. And, the ideal place of purchase is your local farmers market. Picnickers often have biodegradable foods and bags for any packaging.
Who then are the typical people who chose to picnic? Usually the British picnic is very family orientated with parents bringing games for the children such as Frisbee or bats and balls.
Embrace the outdoors
Outdoor eating also has a place for the romantic couple. If you want to surprise your partner with a picnic then opt for champagne and strawberries. If in season the British strawberries are especially delicious and compliment the champagne perfectly. It is difficult to think of a more pleasant way to spend time and make memories.
Many shops stock very modern picnic backpacks especially for couples and one in particular from John Lewis contains the essentials – bottle holder compartments and cheeseboard. Also available at John Lewis is ‘Wave’ acrylic champagne flutes which are ever so convenient. Flutes are not just a fancy glass but they are actually shaped to keep the fizz.
Champagne is not to everyone’s taste. Nor does it suit everyone’s budget. But, that is not a problem as there are other options such as cava and prosecco. When choosing a wine the key is choosing something light and refreshing such as a sauvignon or a Beaujolais. An alternative to wine is bottles of chilled beer. Of course, alcohol is not essential and homemade lemonade can be very tasty.
So today’s picnic although not a Victorian feast can be vast, diverse and not forgetting ‘fun’. So as you prepare that favourite blanket to lay down for your loved ones keep in mind the art of ‘picnicking’.