Dining Al-fresco in summer

Dining Al-fresco in summer

With the warmer weather arriving, my thoughts turn to the great occasion of the Picnic. There are some words which just conjure up happy memories and take you back to your growing up with your family and friends and one such word is Picnic.

My family loved our picnics and the anticipation was almost exciting as Christmas or birthdays.  And then sometimes it was just announced – we are going on a picnic and it was rush around to help mum with the food and find the blankets and hamper.

Picnics meant loading up the car and deciding on a venue.  We were always going somewhere for a purpose, to a relative or to pick flowers and the picnic was to be enjoyed on the way.  When we were close to lunchtime we all had to start looking for a place to stop and lay out the rugs and food.

Now things are slightly more sophisticated but the pleasure of just plonking yourself in a field and opening the basket remains.  So I think we should have some picnic rules so that we do not miss the original delights and make do with a stop off at a Little Chef or Motorway service Station.

Picnic Etiquette

1.       Location – this is purely a matter of personal choice but ideally should be clean grass liberally sprinkled with wild flowers and definitely free from cow pats.  I prefer isolation and plenty of room to allow children to run around.  There should be an area flat enough to take the rug or groundsheet.

2.       Equipment – some items are essential such as the blanket and basket or hamper.  I like to have a folding chair and a table is useful.  Some like a primus to brew the tea or a flask can be used.  Plates, plastic cutlery and cups are de rigueur and if you have children (or messy adults) wet wipes are a great invention.  If it is really hot a sun shade is handy.

3.       Games – to play after eating if you feel energetic.  Bats and balls are essential and for the larger group a cricket set.  Rounders, Frisbee and swing ball can be fun.

4.        Food – this is of course the most vital element and there are plenty of recipes for easy to eat food.  This is usually cold as I consider hot food the domain of a barbecue which is a completely difference occasion.

5.        Company – a family and friends group is always fun but a romantic alfresco meal for two can be a special occasion.  A bottle of wine is an important ingredient here but of course, not if you are driving,

Martha Stewart the US lifestyle guru advises:

“Once you arrive at your picnicking destination, however, there is often one thing missing…manners. Just because you are not in a formal restaurant does not mean consideration for others needs to be forgone. When dining out-of-doors, yet in a public space, such as a park beach, lakefront, etc, proper etiquette is most necessary.

When sitting down at a picnic table or on a large blanket, take a look around. Are there other people close by? Can they see you? Can you see them? Moreover, can you hear them?  If you can easily eavesdrop on their conversation, they can hear you too.

In considering this, keep in mind the words you chose, the tone of your voice and the volume of your sentences. Are you yelling at people at your table? Just because there’s no ceiling and you aren’t in an enclosed restaurant environment does not give you rights to speak like you were in the confines of your own kitchen or backyard.  Don’t swear or use foul language or indulge in displays of public affection.  Remember to consider those around you.”

There’s nothing quite as fun as a picnic in the sunshine. Food always seems to taste so good when eaten outdoors.   Remember to make it an occasion with special food either lovingly prepared by you or bought in from a supermarket or even a hamper ordered from Fortnum and Masons.

Please do let us know about your picnic memories and what you ate and drank. Do you still enjoy them?