The park, the beach, a shady spot, your favorite secret corner. Like in real estate, location is everything when scouting for a picnic site. Keep it simple, easy to reach and close to a storm shelter.
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.
The word picnic has existed in English for a long time, with different meanings including a kind of hat and a morally suspect club started by lord Chesterfied in 1748 that was associated with card-playing and drinking. No matter. Picnicking is what you make of it. I call mine alfresco dining and I pack it as tasty and as fun as I can.
The art of the picnic should require resolute rejection of plastic when it comes to food packing. Plastic makes everything smell funky and it’s, in my opinion, unbecoming. Paper, glass, cloth, cardboard, wax paper, are all beautiful alternatives.
Don’t forget the bottle opener for the booze. Or better forget it and stick to champagne.
At the beginning of times a picnic was a way to take a whole meal outside. Originally servants and coaches used to come at 4am to pick up a picnic hamper. Well I have news for you. Times have changed. Keep you packing light and organized. Select fresh ingredients and recipes that are easily sharable with your tribe. On the other hand, if you have kids in the group, by all mean, load them up.
In the end, packing good food is what a picnic it’s all about. It doesn’t have to be fine dining or complicated but it has to be memorable and refreshing. Jars salads are a great idea. Dressing goes on the bottom, veggies and other goodies get piled on top. Everything stays separate and dressing-free until you toss the salad together, you’ll never eat another soggy salad.
A pressed sandwich is another fabulous idea. You can prepare it in advance, by cutting a good loaf of crusty bread, loading it with layers of greens, creamy cheese, salty cured meats, a good drizzle of strong olive oil and wrap it in lots of cellophane. Put it at the bottom of the picnic basket and weight it down with all the other goodies. Once you a get to your spot, ask the kids to sit on it. It will help you flatten the sandwich, and making sure all the flavors are properly combined while giving you the time you need to unpack in peace. Don’t forget scotched eggs and an aioli for dipping, I’m partial to my tarragon infused recipe, some pickled veggies for tanginess, and of course strawberries because it’s not a proper picnic with out sweet strawberries to stain your clothes.
All the recipes from my lecture at Olivette are now online.