I think I’m the only one in my family who likes picnics, so although we often take food with us when we’re travelling, it’s hardly ever what I call a real picnic with a rug and plates of nice things slightly the worse for travelling in a warm car, balanced on tufty grass beneath the blanket. Picnics are tepid tea, compressed sandwiches, squidged cakes, annoying insects, occasional cows… Picnics are family things, fun, and exciting!

My dad, having been in so many out door eating situations while he was in the army during the war, pouring liquid corned beef from tins, drinking stewed tea from the Salvation Army officers (for whom he was always grateful) plagued by really horrible insects, not just English ants, midges and wasps, and shite-hawks as he called them swooping down to snatch food from their plates… So I can understand he was not keen, and being on the beach was not a great joy, reminiscent as it was for his time in the desert… He didn’t complain or moan about it, in fact he rarely mentioned it… but picnics were not really for him.

Ruth Drew, the journalist and broadcaster whose words were published  posthumously in ‘The Happy Housewife’ was a great one for all sorts of eating out of doors, and has a whole chapter on packed meals and picnic food.

There are lots of people who take a superior line on picnics – you know – how dreadful the flies are – and the hard ground and tea tasting of old cans. However, agreeable characters are not at all superior. They are delighted to eat all their meals out of doors in summer weather. The only thing they find dreadful about picnics is seeing the mess some people make with old sandwich papers and bottles and orange peel and goodness knows what.

This must have been written in the 1940’s or 50’s… plus ça change!

Ruth continues:

Sandwiches have their uses. But sandwiches take quite a time to make, if you make them properly, and on the whole if you’ve once done it you will find you would rather take food in plastic bags or screw-top jars or flasks. salad comes along in a plastic bag – a transparent polythene one, it washes and lasts for ages, and its wonderful for keeping green salad fresh.

…and here, times do change – these days, people would be advised to wrap sandwiches in recyclable paper, and not plastic bags which can’t be recycled!

img079My mum and dad, her two sisters and brother, her brother-in-law and our two cousins… picnic!

5 thoughts on “I love picnics

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