Tips for the perfect picnic
Outdoor gastronomy is an art form and masterpieces can only be produced through adherence to strict rules, says Samuel Muston.
When I am planning a picnic, I immediately think of Ratty and Mole. Their feast in The Wind in the Willows, with its lovely, hunger-inducing "fat wicker luncheon basket", is just about the high point of outdoor eating in novels.
"What's inside it?" asks Mole, sighting the bounty in Ratty's hand. "Oh there's cold chicken inside it," replied Ratty. "Cold tongue, cold ham, cold beef, pickle gherkin salad, French rolls, cress sandwiches, potted meat, ginger beer, lemonade and soda water." It is at this point that Mole loses it. "Stop, stop," he cries. "This is too much." It is here that my interests and Mole's diverge quite drastically because, to me, that sounds like just about the perfect amount - although maybe it could benefit from the removal of the lemonade and the addition of white wine.
A perfect picnic gives you, unlike any other meal, a miniature holiday: a vacation from everyday life. So, here are my "cut out and keep" rules for an outdoor feast:
Avoid drinks in cans.
They will be near boiling point before you even sit down. Take a dry white wine or a scrumpy cider. The glass may be heavy but they'll stay chilled for longer, especially in a wine cooler.
Buy, buy, buy
It's hot so spend the time in the sun, not in the kitchen prepping everything.
Head to a deli and buy the staples and just make the posh/pricey things.
Utensils and receptacles.
Unless you are a wannabe Mr Universe, leave the thick china plates at home. Do, however, bring proper cutlery - plastic won't cut it, literally and metaphorically.
Choose your location wisely.
Avoid hills, ants, animals and people playing sports. Find somewhere quiet with enough space to spread out. Picnics are always bigger when you get them out of the basket than when you put them in.
Keep it simple.
Fruit, cold meat, potato salad (this is practically a statutory requirement) and lots of veges and salads. No one wants your special picnic beef wellington.
Have absolutely nothing to do with beaches.
They may look nice and yes the sound of the water is lovely, but you will end up with sand in your egg mayonnaise and the tide is likely to cut the thing short, abruptly.
Do it quick.
Before the sun disappears.
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