• How to picnic in style

    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 

    • Have several luxurious picnic blankets, cushions and folding seats in your kit to ensure a comfortable repast. After all this is a luxury experience.
    • Make sure you have a suitable hamper to carry your feast, something that’s befitting the occasion. Be sure it also has capacity to hold all the modern accoutrements you need and to keep your food and drinks cool.
    • Go for re-usable crockery, glasses, cutlery and linens, this is better for the environment and, also, looks great. Be sure to pack a bottle opener and a corkscrew. Pop food items in re-usable containers too.
    • Pick food that isn’t too delicate and is easy to transport. If you’re going to go for sandwiches, back away from the rustic rolls and go for gorgeous, crustless, white bread sandwiches with elegant fillings like smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber. This is a special event and it’ll take time to prepare.
    • Reach for luxury scotch eggs, quiches, pork pies, sausage rolls, and, if you can, have a go at making your own at home. Grab the best olives, grapes, strawberries and other fruit to add to your basket too.
    • If you’re thinking of wowing any friends you meet, then a whole hot smoked trout is ideal. It flakes off the bone beautifully and can be served with homemade salads or cold roasted vegetables with couscous. This will give more of a dining experience.
    • For the poshest picnics, order in some champagne and forget the flask of tea. Remember this isn’t about necessity, it’s about having something to remember. If you’re after a non-alcoholic tipple that’s just as special, then how about elderflower fizz? Cork popping, where possible, is a must-have!