A picnic with the National Mark

I was writing somewhere else about picnics, and I suppose I had picnics in my min when I was looking at my little National Mark Calendar of Cooking book from 1936. Maybe I wouldn’t pack a picnic for us with dishes from the little recipe book, but supposing I was writing about a family in the 1930’s who were going on a picnic, what might they take with them?

Mother no doubt would prepare it all, and I can imagine it in a traditional whisker basket or hamper, lined with a blue and white checked cloth. Father would find the right spot to lay out the rugs and cloth, and he would light the Primus stove to make tea.

Mother might have made sandwiches with the National Mark recipe for brown bread (wholemeal flour, yeast, butter, sugar, salt and tepid water) and maybe they would have beef in them. Collared beef (‘very delicious served cold‘) is beef simmered for a long time with onions, herbs (parsley, thyme, sage, marjoram)and spices (mace, cloves, bayleaf, allspice, pepper, celery seeds) – that would be delicious indeed in sandwiches! There were no plastic pots and tubs then, so I guess the salad was either brought as separate ingredients and prepared  sitting on the picnic rug, or maybe prepared and put into a bowl and wrapped in grease-proof paper. There is a lovely selection of salads in the June chapter:

  • celery leaf
  • lettuce and green peas
  • tomato and celery
  • cheese
  • rice, ham and tomato
  • cauliflower

Beef mayonnaise is another option instead of one of the salads above; cubes of beef, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, hard-boiled eggs and home-made mayonnaise (made with olive oil – it’s not just a recent fashion, pre-war cooks used it too!) There are lots of lovely desserts in this little book, desserts which would be practical to bring on a picnic. A sort of clafoutis made with plums, blackcurrant and almond paste tart, strawberry flan, gooseberry tart – and to go with the cup of tea father has made, fruit and nut cake or raisin brown bread. Father himself might prefer the cider cup!

My featured image, by the way is of my own  family on a picnic – a long time after the war I have to say!

Dreaming of picnics and outdoor meals

We had a beautiful sunny blue-skyed day today after Storm Doris passed. My washing dried on the line and it was the sort of nice weather I wished I had more washing to do, but I am all up to date. However pleasant the day, February is not really right for picnics, but I was reading my Constance Spry Cookery Book and came across her chapter on food for special occasions, and picnics fall into that category..

She gives a lovely description of what seems more like a camp menu, round a fire:

The nicest outdoor meals are those cooked on the spot… (she does have a chapter on barbecues, so she doesn’t mean that sort of on the spot cooking!) When means of transport are available it is well to take along a frying pan, possibly a primus stove, or if you plan a gypsy fire, and the weather is damp (or you live in the Highlands) a bundle of dry kindling and a fire lighter. Then you will probably settle for a meal of bacon and eggs and sausages…

I have never had bacon and eggs cooked on a picnic!

… or if you have a cook amongst you, an omelet… If you can be sure of a bonfire you will roast potatoes in the ashes, though they take at least an hour, and toast sausages on long sticks. I am not of girl-guide vintage but I am told their suet treacle pudding, cooked for hours in a billy can, takes a lot of beating. But alas, time is often our enemy,and much outdoor food must be carried ready prepared.

Her suggestions for food brought along:

  • Fillings for rolls – the rolls split lengthwise, the ends cut off, some of the crumb taken out, spread with soft butter mixed with lemon juice, salt and pepper, crushed garlic or french mustard – fillings: banana and mango chutney, and/or fillets of bückling (a hot smoked herring) and dill pickle
  • triple-decker sandwiches – bacon and watercress, bacon and mushrooms, chicken mushrooms and lettuce, asparagus, bacon and toasted cheese
  • quiche
  • devilled chicken
  • cheese bread filled with cheese
  • omelet in a roll – plain, fines herbes, cheese with a tomato salad
  • Cornish pasty
  • hamburger