by Diane Clark
16th – 25th June is National Picnic Week; why not celebrate it with your own sumptuous hamper.
The earliest picnics in England and France were medieval hunting feasts in the 14th Century, but the word itself did not come in to common use until 1740. Picnic, or ‘pique-nique,’ is of French origin, formed from ‘piquer’, the French for ‘to pick at food’, and ‘nique’ meaning something small of no value. It’s meaning has slightly changed over the years.
The Victorians used to pack the most wonderful picnics. It was their way of taking the meal in its entirety outside – very large hampers full of raised pies, the Scotch eggs, which we invented in the 1730s, boned and sliced chickens and capons, a joint of cold roast beef, lobsters, salads, English cheeses, bread baked goods, butter wrapped in lettuce leaves, to keep it sweet and cool and very rich fruit cake, plus, of course, champagne!
Location is paramount, with parks, riversides, beaches, hilltops and outside concerts all providing glorious picnicking opportunities.
Dining al fresco with friends and family is one of summer’s greatest pleasures. The picnic is a great British tradition, and the food, of course, must take centre stage.
Picnickers still seem to enjoy a taste of nostalgia and a splash of yesteryear – with pies still a picnic staple. Here are a few more suggestions; homemade Scotch eggs, which have become the alternative to sandwiches, handmade pasta salad, watercress rather than lettuce, beetroot and nasturtium salad, and chicken and leek pie, quiches, cured meats, bacon, cheese and herb scones, carrot and celery sticks, hummus, cheeses, olives, tapas dishes, artisan breads, fresh fruit, including British strawberries and cream, coffee/tea, wine and mineral water etc!
The key is to take ‘sturdy’ items that won’t bruise or break easily if bumped.
So dust off your hampers and dig out your blankets. Dining alfresco with friends and family is one of summer’s greatest pleasures. The picnic is a great British tradition, and the food, of course, must take centre stage.