With still, understandably, no chance this weekend to visit your favourite eatery, if you want to dine away from home in style, you need to become a picnic perfectionist!
Where it started
The British love to eat outdoors when the weather allows it and we like nothing better than packing a picnic and heading out.
Our love affair with al fresco dining stems from classic children’s literature such as The Wind in the Willows, Swallows and Amazons and The Famous Five where everything was idyllic and charming.
But the concept and the word picnic is not British, it’s French. It comes from the word ‘pique-nique’ and was first used in the late 1600s.
It meant a meal when everyone brought a dish to ‘pick’ from. In this country, it was the Georgians who adopted it and made it their own. They loved nothing better than eating outdoors, enjoying our green and pleasant land, and romanticising about the simple life of country folk, with several servants in tow!
Jane Austen’s novel ‘Emma’, in the 1800s, featured ‘a quiet, unpretending, elegant’ picnic. In Jane’s day, picnics were parties for the fashionable, pleasure-loving upper to middle classes. They were spectacular events, where no expense, if possible, was spared.
On the menu were delicacies like pigeon pies, potted meats, garden pickles, exotic fruits and spiced sponges. It was transported in glorious wicker baskets, often accompanied by serving staff to help ensure guests had their every whim catered for.
Picnics symbolised ‘feeling at one with nature’ in the Romantic era. This was portrayed in Manet’s painting The Luncheon on the Grass in a rather scandalous way with its nude female bather central to the picnic scene.
For the British, this was taking it too far and ruining a good meal in the open air at the same time.
Elevate your picnic