We Brits love our picnics, just a hint of sunshine and we can be found reaching for the hamper and rug and heading for the nearest beauty spot, or even just our back garden for a spot of al fresco dining.
But do you know the history of the humble picnic?
Historians agree that the English word “picnic” comes from the French term “pique-nique”, which was used from the mid-1600s on to describe gourmands who brought their own wine when dining out. But elegant meals outdoors were probably first eaten during the Middle Ages, when hunting became a favoured pursuit of the leisure class.
Up until Victorian times, picnics were primarily a pursuit of the wealthy but popularity grew as leisure time and food availability increased across class boundaries.
The seminal book on British cooking and housekeeping, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, gave detailed instructions on how to hold a picnic:
For 40 people Mrs. Beeton insisted on, among many other things, cold roast beef, four meat pies, four roast chickens, two roast ducks, four dozen cheesecakes and one large cold plum pudding. To quench the picnickers’ thirst, three dozen quart bottles of beer were on the menu, as well as claret, sherry and brandy.
Of course tastes have changed somewhat over the years – after all not many of us have a housekeeper to prepare the feast for us! Strawberries, sandwiches and carrot sticks with houmous have replaced the whole roast ducks and cold plum pudding. But unfortunately these days picnicking can often be about picking up ready prepared convenience foods from the supermarket – resulting in a whole stack of plastic packaging waste.
So at Green Tulip we are championing the idea of going back to the picnics of the past (don’t worry we mean from the point of view of preparing a zero waste picnic NOT preparing two roast ducks and four dozen cheesecakes!).
Here are a few ways we can help with this:
Or if you have a big group try buying whole baguettes and taking along cheeses and cold meats to cater for all tastes (and let people make their own sandwiches!).
Salads and fruits in reusable containers like these A Slice of Green ones will ensure you are not filling your bins at home or trying to stuff the overflowing park bin with more than it can possibly handle on a sunny Sunday afternoon!
Add in a few drinks and a beautiful ReSpiin throw to relax on and you have the recipe for a perfect British picnic! Now, where did that sunshine go? 🌞 ☔️
And Finally Some Picnic ‘Advice’ From The Past…
The American Bill of Fare for a picnic in the late 1800s had some ‘good advice’ for those contemplating a picnic. Here are some brief excerpts:
- “If the party is to drive or ride, let not the distance be too great. There should be a stream or spring of pure water, materials for a fire, shade intermingled with sunshine, and a reasonable freedom from tormenting insect life.”
- “Be careful to dress for the entertainment, after consulting the barometer and the thermometer, and after learning the geography of the objective point of the day.”
- “Two or three hammocks, providing the picnic be in a forest; a few closely-folding camp-chairs, and a spirit-lamp or two for extra tea or coffee, are comforts that require no space worth considering, and only a little remembrance when packing up, while they really increase to a large degree the agreeable favour of a day in the woods.”
- “When providing food for the party, pray do not forget to supply at least double the quantity which would be served at home for the same number of people, and then be sure to add a little more. To be hungry, ravenously hungry, while in the woods, proves to us that fresh air is wholesome and that nature encourages vigorous appetites. Therefore, even if they were convenient of transport, soups would not be a necessary stimulant to digestion.”
- “The best and most convenient of all out-of-door edibles, is the sandwich. Not the one with slips of meat laid between slices of buttered bread, so that when a bit of bread is taken, all the enclosed meat is dragged out, unless a serious contest takes place in its behalf between the teeth and fingers, which, to confess the truth, is not an attractive conflict…To make sandwich that leave none but pleasant memories and provoke no temper while in transit from the basket to the gastric regions, always grind the meat or chop it when cold to very nearly a pulp. Make a thick mayonnaise, and mix it with the meat until it is about the consistency of marmalade. Store and carry this most agreeable preparation in a covered dish or close jar.”
Who knew so much thought used to go into a humble picnic!