I’ll share a secret with you. I used to think picnics were overrated.
I know… I know... It’s an unusual and unlikely opinion to hold, especially at this time of year. The popularity of the picnic puzzled me. If you can't imagine this, well, bear with me…you might be able to relate more than you first thought.
Picture the scene. It’s your first picnic of the summer; the anticipation is high, the journey is long and the hamper is heavy.
After a long drive, you find the ideal spot to settle down, but it turns out… everyone else has had the same idea. Worse still – someone tipped off every insect in the area, both land and airborne divisions, which come out in force and eagerly swarm around your blanket.
As you rummage your way through your groaning hamper, searching between the now squashed finger food and the leaking thermos flask, the good time you were looking for slinks away into the bushes, leaving you with excess packaging, too much food and a dismal sense of what could have been.
To take the edge off, you and your companion might want a drink, but as you had to drive a distance to get here, you can’t. And pop goes your idyllic getaway, unlike the bottle of Prosecco, which sits, unused and forlorn at the bottom of your hamper, waiting for you to lug it all the way home again. The disenchantment is intense. That gnawing feeling of failure seems to have a bigger appetite than you do. You resolve to not bother again, or perhaps to see what might be on offer in the nearest pub the next time someone suggests eating outside.
Throwing a good picnic is a serious business. But worry not. Once an inveterate agoraphobe, I have now become the most ardent of al-fresco-philes. I believe I've found the surest way to make picnics the enjoyable experiences they're meant to be again. To help with this, I've sought out experts in their fields, their back gardens, and National Trust picnic sites.
And so it is I’ve now compiled a short list of tips on how to turn your picnic into a pic-nice.
If you will indulge me, I will share a select few tips with you now.
1) Less Is More
Avoid the temptation to pack too much. It will prove difficult to carry it to your picnic spot, and you will likely have to carry the majority of it back with you anyway. Pack light, and aim for quality food over quantity.
2) Plan Your Spontaneity
Seemingly a contradiction in terms, this is one of the best bits of advice you can have. If you know what you would like to take and where you are going to go when a picnic opportunity next presents itself, you can be on the way at the drop of a hat and allow for the good times to arrive. Often the best trips appear to be organic and spontaneous, but are rarely completely so.
Somewhere nearby, or easy to get to. Good parking, and preferably, at the top of a hill. You’ll have better views, and the walk back down will be far easier. Also, search around for a less-well known spot. Not too popular, so that you will avoid the crowds and have a much more blissful experience. I’d share my favourite locations with you, but… that would defeat the purpose wouldn’t it?
It is vital to stay cool, and have something everyone can enjoy. Since we discovered the Van Nahmen Frucht-Secco range, they now feature in all our picnics. All of the fizz, with none of the alcohol make this a sure hit.
5) Sweet and Savoury.
Never overdo it with one or the other. We used to take two sweet items with us. One was to serve as a propitiatory offering to the local insect-life, allowing enough of a distraction to allow for snatching mouthfuls in between dives under the blanket for cover.
A simpler solution? Mix it up. We recommend a few small, sweet items, and, rather than a sweet cake, a creamy cheese to accompany. At the moment, we can’t get enough of the luxuriously creamy Brillat Frais, and as the sweet accompaniment, we adore Fine English Wheat Fingers along with Dardiman’s California Strawberry Crisps. These are so full of flavour it’s unreal, and they are completely vegan and kosher with no added ingredients.
Whatever your summer plans, I wish you well with any picnics you attempt. Below are a few items that we are enjoying right now , and a few choices here might be just what you need to perfect your own picnics.
List of items featuring in Picnic hampers of The Fine Cheese Co. this summer
Graceburn Feta-style cheese
Nectars, Juices and Frucht-Secco from Van Nahmen
Fine English Wheat Fingers
Wyfe of Bath
Mothais sur Feiulle
Fine English Bath Ovals
Dardiman's California Fruit Crisps
Grace & I Fruit & Nut Press