“There are few things so pleasant as a picnic lunch eaten in perfect comfort.”
So proclaimed playwright W. Somerset Maugham, and we heartily agree. Few pleasures in life trump the joy of eating outside, hands and hearts full with good food and good company.
It’s harder to find agreement on what makes a proper picnic, however.
An early description is given by the ‘Pic Nic Society’; a group of young Francophiles enamoured by fashionable “pique-niques’ brought over by French aristocrats fleeing revolution. Each of the 200 members was required to bring one dish to share… and six bottles of wine.
For a less inebriated event, we should look to Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household management (the Victorian Mrs Hinch if you will). She suggests a modest offering that starts with five pounds of cold salmon, one quarter of lamb, three boiled chickens, two pigeon pies, one large ham, one pound of cheese, one gallon of strawberries and four large loaves of bread. Wine is noticeably absent.
A plentiful spread is a common theme. Wind in the Willows’ Mole, one of literature’s most enthusiastic picnickers, can barely contain his delight at the abundance on offer.
“What’s inside it?” asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity.
“There’s cold chicken inside it,’ replied the Rat briefly; “coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkins-saladfrenchrollscresssandwichespottedmeat-gingerbeerlemonadesodawater—.”
“O stop, stop,” cried the Mole in ecstasies: “This is too much!”
“Do you really think so?” enquired the Rat seriously. “It’s only what I always take on these little excursions; and the other animals are always telling me that I’m a mean beast and cut it VERY fine!”
So perhaps a little excess does add something. But in our experience, a proper picnic is surprisingly simple.
It doesn’t require the perfect setting, or matching napkins. It can be formal or rustic, flamboyant or pleasingly frugal.
The only thing a proper picnic really needs, is proper food. Fresh, seasonal ingredients, prepared with love, and shared in the great outdoors.
As five, famous friends once noted as they, “held their hard-boiled eggs in one hand and a piece of bread and butter in the other, munching happily. There was a dish of salt for everyone to dip their eggs into. ‘I don’t know why, but the meals we have on picnics always taste so much nicer than the ones we have indoors,’ said George.”
We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
Discover our Summer picnic menu here. Whether adding an extra treat to your homemade feast, or trusting us to lay on a full spread, you can be sure of one thing. This is proper picnic food.