Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Great British Picnic

If we have to have a Britishness test surely the picnic, should be the true barometer of whether you stay, or you're sent back on the first RAF transport to Darfur.

The picnic is a fine art. In my pre-children days, I have to admit to over extravagance. Anything that involves having to mix a dressing and pour it over a salad, on location, is more of a faff than it's worth. I make this assertion on the basis that if you are making a dressing for a picnic, then you had better have the table, foldable chairs, crockery, whicker basket and napkins to back up your pretensions. Otherwise you're doomed to an oil stained rug and frustrated gastro buddies, plus the ignomy of the rest of the polo crowd trying to pretend you're not sitting there.

Nope the ingredients of the great British Picnic for four are thus.

-Two times cheese and pickle sandwiches (the cornerstone of all British culture)

-Two times egg and cucumber sandwiches (cress is not an option, you always get left with half a tray that wilts on the windowsill)

-Two times tuna mayo and cucumber sandwiches (see there was method in my egg and cucumber combo, buy half a cucumber and you have no waste)

All of the above should be cut into quarters and sheathed in two layers of clingfilm, wrapped in opposite directions. Failure to wrap two sheets of clingfilm (in opposite directions) and plumping for one, will result in lateral, structural weakness and filling all over the inside*. In the event of one layer being used, you can be assured that the egg mayo and probably the pickle, will fall and stain the oldest picnic party member's trousers and create a bad mood from the outset. You have been warned. Finally each of the three individually wrapped parcels should be placed back into the bread wrapper, from whence they came.

NB 1. Using fresh bread may seem like a good idea, but will result in your sandwich parcels rattling around in the bag. It's what sliced bread wrappers, were destined to do, don't deny them their destiny.

NB 2. For added authenticity, one of the sandwiches should be made using a crust. Dependent on your picnic guests, there will be one of two conversations.

Conversation 1

'No, no, no, you have it. I know you like the crusts. I'm not bothered'

'No, seriously you have it'

'Honestly I don't mind, have it, go on'

'No, you have it, you made them'

'Weeeell if you don't mind'

Conversation 2

'Oh for fuck's sake, why do I always get left with the crust'

'Well mum made the picnic, so it's only fair'

'Jeeesus don't worry, I'll just have a pork pie' (see below) - Proceed to nick more than your fair share of pork pies.

Please be aware both of the above conversations are equally British and will qualify you for citizenship.

Supplementary picnic items:

- Two boiled eggs - these will inevitably be left over, because you always think you need more eggs for the sandwiches than you actually use.

- Individual mini pork pies x6 - six is never enough really, but buying eight just seems greedy. However, we should learn that the purchase of six, leaves an imbalance of distribution and will inevitably lead to argument later on (see conversation 2 above)

- Snack eggs x1 pack - these horrendous processed monstrosities, are the most delicious food known to man (well picnic man anyway) - don't worry, that you've already got egg sandwiches and the left over boiled eggs, from having done too many for the sandwiches, what's a little constipation between friends.

- Cocktail sausages x40 (or 80, if you forgot to eat breakfast and you're standing at the chiller cabinet, salivating) - never ever look at the list of ingredients on a pack of cocktail sausages, they taste too good to be ruined by that kind of stupidity.

- Apples x4 - these are conscience salvers. Following the processed muck you've shovelled down prior to the apple, they will make you feel like a picnic is a much healthier option, than going to the beach cafe and ordering burger and chips.

- Carrot sticks - see apples above

- One 2 litre bottle of pre-mixed squash - remember for true authenticity the bottle should have previously contained something other than squash, preferably 1/2 a litre of flat carbonated water, that for some reason's been sat in the fridge for 6 or 7 months N.B. Inevitably the solution will always be either far too strong, or far too weak.

Please ensure that all of the above are placed in a bag that was designed, to only fit about 80% of the stuff you are trying to stuff in. This will ensure the sandwiches are well squashed on arrival. N.B. If the picnic appears to fit neatly in to the bag you are taking, you have forgotten the plastic plates, plastic cups, cutlery and napkins**. There is no getting away from the 80% rule I'm afraid.

* If you're thinking the lateral, structual weakness can be avoided by cutting the sandwiches in half, think again. Quarters is the only way to go on a picnic I'm afraid. Use a second piece of clingfilm you lazy cheapskate.

**Please note plates, plastic cups, cutlery and napkins are compulsary if you are picnicing with women. The 80% rule is therefore effectively their fault. If it was a bloke's picnic, the sandwiches wouldn't get squashed. Think about it next time women.


Anonymous said...

Ah yes. The joys of the picnic. Actually that sounded pretty much like the ones I had when I was at university. Particularly the squash - always too strong for some reason and franly I have no idea whay we used to bring it as we were all only really interested in the booze.

Sadly my picnics now are a rather more grand affiar. I think I crossed a rrubicon when I decided that making my own scotch eggs (using qualis eggs of course) was a good plan. From then on the annual picnic in Richmond Park has just got mor and more lavish. I now have a battery operated fridge to keep the fizz cool. Aaaaaaaaarrrggghhhh.

Span Ows said...

Cheese and Pickle...hmmmmmmmm (homer simpson doughnuts)

I always liked liver pate (OK liver suasgae) sanwiches as well to which I would add crisps - salt and vinegar in a BLUE packet (dead right Gavin)

These days when I'm in The UK we tend to taje little tubs of cheese squares (cheddar) mixed with grapes - a very good combination. Also some 'fairy cake' type thingies that go well with the squash (weak)

...oh, and the wine :-)

Paul said...

It's always rained at the end of our picnics - except the one time on a private beach that's part of Chesil Beach. That day it ended early because the couple in the next car decided to have sex al fresco - we weren't offended we just couldn't stop laughing and didn't want to upset them.

How British is that?

Span Ows said...

There is something comical about it all isn't there. They probably think they're being really hip and cool but really they're just tossers...or not, as the case may be :-/

IsobelMagsBuchan said...

Sounds prety much like the sort of picnics I had with my family until I went to Uni. I was a mature student, with lots of mature students, most of us were in out late 20's early 30's and so we knew how to enjoy ourselves and we knew how to cook.

Anyway, during the summer it became a rutual that once a month we would picnic up on Hampstead Heath and they were wonderful picnics. Everyone brought along a couple of items. As there were usually about 20 of us this meant a feast from around the world of fantastic proportions plus loads of wine! There was only one rule, what ever you bought had to be homemade (except the wine)and it always was.

I recall freshly made guacamole, samosa's,pakora's, tzaziki, stuffed vine leaves, stuffed tomatoes, rice salads where the rice was not gloupy, chicken satay, quiche of every order, coleslaw, potato salads of every variety, bean salads, crispy green salads....with dressing, glorious cakes, spanish omelette, smoked salmon.

And then there were my infamous BBQ's..............

Curmy said...

Six, it's lovely to have you back after a 2 week break.
Most of our picnics on holiday with the children involved arguements about who'd eaten the most sandwiches, and complaints about sand on their food.
"Well you shouldn't have thrown your apple at your sister"

Span Ows said...

"rice salads where the rice was not gloupy"...ah, not English then! ...I know from experience that nearly everyone can cook rice except the English.

P.S. Rutual?! I bet it was!

IsobelMagsBuchan said...

Span, I shall ignore your silly observations however, I am English and I can cook, non-gloupy rice. Just ask Mr Mags. I did learn how to cook rice from an Indian woman though.

jane said...

hahaha, that's ace. Our picnics were pretty much the same. Never tried the cling film trick though. I used to criticise our picnics cos I always wanted something posher with a picnic hamper set and salads and marinaded chicken. But now I can see that bits of both types are the best.

Gavin Corder said...

Are you aware that bread may be purchased by the loaf "sans crust" now? Shocking or what?

Gavin Corder said...

Crikey.... Mags is having "rutual on the Heath" here, spooky!