Picnic’s can be fun at any time of year but for me summer means long, lazy picnics, with a group of family and friends, just eating, drinking, chatting and messing around.
As with most things we do today, it was the Victorians who showed us the way. I am thinking it may be fun to go on a picnic the original Victorian way – a VicPic or should that be – a Picvic!
There was a long history to picnicking before they perfected the art. Well, I suppose you could say that even our cavemen ancestors did a lot of it but, generally speaking, its roots can be traced back, in Europe, to Medieval hunting feasts.
We think the term was first used in print in 1692 The pique-nique was used to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. The concept of a picnic long retained the connotation of a meal to which everyone contributed something. Probably what we would call a potluck meal. No-one has as yet proven where the term comes from – but I have a theory! Piquer is French slang for stealing a little something -what we may calling ‘nicking’. Is that just coincidence pique and nick together? I can imagine the acting of grabbing a bit of this or that for yourself may have been a bit like stealing for yourself at the expense of others… I digress.
Up until Victorian times, picnics were primarily a pursuit of the wealthy, as in this scene from the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. It’s easy to understand why: Working men and women barely had enough means to scrape together a proper meal indoors, let alone pack up a feast to go. But the Victorian era saw the picnic cross class boundaries. They were given a huge boost by Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, which gave detailed instructions on how to hold a picnic.
For 40 people, Mrs. Beeton insisted on, among many other things, cold roast beef, four meat pies, four roast chickens, two roast ducks, four dozen cheesecakes and one large cold plum pudding. To quench the picnickers’ thirst, three dozen quart bottles of beer were on the menu, as well as claret, sherry and brandy.
You may want to simplify this approach a bit and English Heritage helpfully have an excellent page with some useful tips:
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