July is National Picnic Month! Eating outdoors with friends and family has a long history. From the ancient Greeks to the England of today, the picnic is a popular summer tradition.
How did the picnic get its name? The word for picnic is French in origin and dates to 1692 as ‘pique-nique’. The French Revolution was a key part in the picnic coming to Britain. With many members of the French aristocracy setting up a new life, it was logical that some customs would filter through into British society and the pique-nique was one of them. It was a group of French settlers who started London’s Pic Nic Society in 1801, a mixture of dining and amateur theatrics, where each member was required to bring along a dish and six bottles of wine.
For a long time, picnics were seen as an aristocratic activity and not something the working man or woman could aspire to. But over time, trains became more accessible and bikes and cars made getting about easier, taking a picnic out became a lot more achievable. The arrival of supermarkets, cheaper convenience food and plastic and paper crockery meant most people could take advantage of a sunny day and whip up a spur of the moment hamper of treats.
Our Butterfly guests love a good picnic, but you need to do some planning and preparation if you want something a bit more inspired than just lobbing a packet of crisps and an apple into a backpack.
Here are our tips to step up your picnicking game.
- Traditionalists might pack picnic classics like hard boiled eggs, sausage rolls, quiche and mini pork pies. If you fancy something a little different easy picnic options include hummus, flatbread and pitta, tzatziki, falafel, haloumi and couscous.
- Fresh salad items are lovely, but if it’s a hot day leafy salad will wilt before your eyes. Go for chunky crudités like celery sticks and cucumber wedges instead.
- Pasta and potato salads travel well.
- Keep wet salad items like tomatoes, as well as sauces and dressings separate where you can, to stop things going soggy.
- Serving salad in a jar makes a lot of sense. The idea is that the dressing goes in first, gets trapped at the bottom and gently marinates anything around it, so choose a robust ingredient like chickpeas, feta or griddled veg for the first layer. Then fill up the jar with the more delicate ingredients, like fresh herbs, at the top. To serve, tip out into a bowl or serving platter so the dressing gets drizzled over the top of the salad.
- Put small bottles of water, juice in the freezer for a few hours before the picnic if you have time. These can then double-up as chiller-blocks to keep food cold and when you reach your picnic spot, the drinks will still be cold.
- Make a sandwich with a difference – the pan bagnat. That’s a crusty boule or baguette loaf, cut in half, the middle ripped out, then stuffed with boiled eggs, tuna, tomatoes and olives. Make it your way with layers of your favourite cheeses, cured meats, tomatoes and soft herbs like basil or chives, or try this amazing rainbow baguette. Once assembled, wrap tightly with parchment and tie with string. Store in the fridge overnight with something heavy on top, or pack in the bottom of the cool box to press the layers together. Cut into wedges or slices to serve.
- What about veggie or vegan sandwiches? Try some of these delicious combos:
- Beetroot hummus + roasted chickpeas + pesto
- Smoked tofu + aubergine pickle
- Cashew cream cheese + chives + cucumber
- Hummus + grated carrot + fresh coriander + hot sauce
If you’re going for an old-school picnic outing without a picnic table, consider investing in a quality picnic blanket. If you don’t want to buy a blanket just for picnicking, bring a shower curtain liner to place underneath your blanket to keep your blanket clean and dry.
Perhaps the hardest part about a picnic is working out how to safely transport lunch from your house to the picnic location in a mess-free fashion. Use cool bags or an icebox. Picnic hampers look lovely but often are heavy to carry whereas a cool box/bags will keep food at the correct temperature to help avoid any risk of food poisoning.
Make sure you carry some hand wipes or anti-bacterial gel, and make sure that everyone’s hands are clean before they start eating.
Spread it all out and dig in…..
Bon appetit mes amis!
Stony Stratford is a wonderful place to escape to for staycation or work! And the Butterfly Loft is a good base to explore the area with a delicious picnic! If you’re thinking of staying in Milton Keynes and you want somewhere characterful, historically fascinating, and tranquil, do get in touch.