MFK Fisher said the word 'picnic' made her "...feel picnicky at the very sound of it."
Can you remember your first picnic? The anticipation, the excitement, the adventure. The prospect of a new place - perhaps totally unknown to you, food prepared maybe by someone else, or your nervousness because you had planned it and prepared it for someone special and prayed that it would all be "P.O.A" - Perfect On Arrival. Was it a large family buffet style picnic in a park, a clam bake at the beach, a first date, an elegant tailgate affair at a steeplechase, or a simple box lunch in the park. Whatever or wherever, that vivid memory probably leaves you 'feeling picnicky' every time it comes to mind. I bet it does.
First impressions...we develop notions and requirements for this most delicious of meals - al fresco - based on our first experience.
Some of our favorite picnickers had definite thoughts on the subject -
Lesley Blanch - "Careless luxury..."
- "I was brought up to believe no meal could be eaten indoors if it was possible to be eaten outside in the garden, or a balcony, or wherever the sky was all around." (And on wilder shores, of course....)
- "Picnics should have an air of careless luxury - little silver tumblers...are elegant and practical."
- "The wildest, most improbable things, eaten out of doors, preferably in some remote setting, seem absolutely right and put to shame the uninspiring cold chicken and thermos flasks which nestle so smugly in the well equipped picnic baskets of convention."
And we know there was nothing conventional about Lesley!
Diana Cooper - "Selected Venues of sunlight..."
"Where once it was hard-boiled egg, dry curly sandwiches...now it is deliberately a surprise of rareness - iced fantasies, cups of fresh fruits, nameless delicacies gobbled or sipped in selected venues of sunlight or speckled shade and shine...by the water, on the hilltop, or warmed on the rug with mulled wine and ginger against the dangerous beauty of blanketing snow."
MFK Fisher - “Keep it simple, but with a dash of hazard.”
"A true picnic must be carried away from human dwellings, and it must be kept simple...it must have a certain amount of hazard about it: rough ground, stones, ants - ...it must be eaten, too, in the company of at least one intimate, or a good number, ten or so fairly close people, including dogs." Further, she dismisses cooking at the picnic site, as she prefers to "settle, almost immediately, into the proper position to appreciate what one unsung Englishman called "pretty peeps and noble vistas" and stay there as long as the light lasts and the digestive pleasures of my body and my soul sustain me." Amen.
Bettina: A Sunday picnic for one...
Below, Bettina Graziani, the former Parisian femme fatale, model and Givenchy muse, lounges seaside on the Costa Smeralda, Sardinia - the embodiment of femininity and style.
You thought you had read enough about picnics? THINK AGAIN...
"Feast: A History of Grand Eating" by Roy Strong
"Life Is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days" by James & Kay Salter
"Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage" by Emily Post
"French Ways and Their Meaning" by Edith Wharton
"The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities, and Meaning of Table Manners" by Margaret Visser
"The Picnic Papers" by Susanna Johnston & Anne Tennant