I used to hate picnics, which is a shame, because all children I have ever met are pre-programmed to love picnics and in their younger years I found taking my children for a picnic one of the worst forms of torture the summer holidays could devise.
There were several reasons for this:
Ants. The bastards.
Rain. The bastard.
The traditional British concept of a picnic; i.e. plastic bread cheese sandwiches which have been allowed to sweat gently in cellophane for several hours, crisps, bottled drinks with spitty crisp in. Everything too warm and slithery. Urgh.
Sand. The bastard.
My children were the faddiest of faddy eaters, and unless a picnic consisted of Party Rings, Cheese Strings and warm squash, with added Wotsits. They were not happy.
I was suicidal.
In recent years they have grown more sophisticated in terms of taste which has helped enormously. I have also discovered Tiffin boxes, which are a thing of beauty and a joy forever. For those of you who have yet to come across these marvellous things, they are a series of stacked boxes in which you put different food based treats. These then clip together in a metal frame with a little handle, allowing you to transport all sorts of wonderful things wherever you like.
For the purposes of the modern picnic I now own two Tiffin boxes, one with four trays, one with three. I also own a fantastic little picnic set which sits inside an insulated ruck sack. it has a pocket for you to put ice packs to keep stuff cold. It has lots of other pockets to stuff food in. It has two bits at the side for bottles/drinks containers. It has a front pocket which consists of a four piece dinner set complete with salt and pepper shaker and bread board. It is genius, because unlike a picnic hamper in wicker, which is admittedly a lovely thing, it is not unwieldy or difficult to carry, or rips your legs to shreds as you bump around with it smashing into your thigh. And I have a double sided picnic blanket which is waterproof and yet still comfortable to sit on.
I am in picnic gear heaven.
Yesterday we went to Knighton Park, which is our local park, and which I had never managed to visit before now, for a picnic with friends.
It was rather splendid.
I filled my Tiffin boxes with lots of different types of salad and veg; mange tout, radish, mooli, baby toms, cucumber, leaves of varying descriptions, Chanteney carrots, and loads of stuff to dip in the chilli smoked houmous we had bought with us. For Oscar and Tallulah, who are still food philistines I had added mini sausage rolls and chopped up pizza. Tilly and I had home made spicy cous cous with veg and pomegranate seeds, and home made chilli paneer (paneer is a semi hard Indian cheese, which is delicious cooked in curry). We had plenty of carbs with French sticks and tortilla chips, which were also good for dipping and scooping. We also tested out a recipe I had seen on Food and Drink the other day, which was shop bought gnocchi (Michele Roux approved, so I tried it), fried with garlic until toasty on the outside. Very nice and made a change from potato salad.
For pudding I had bought along boxes of cherries and red grapes.
Spread out on the blanket it looked very appetising.
Certainly a small black pug dog with a very blinging collar and a nose for a sausage roll seemed to think so.
Oscar is cultivating a fear of dogs. I do not approve. Particularly when it is a fear of tiny, black pug dogs who are more likely to lick you to death than rip your face off. Oscar leapt from the blanket and raced round and round, while the dog gaily followed him, thinking: ‘A picnic and a play date. Perfection!’ We were howling with laughter as the dog and Oscar raced in ever widening circles around the blanket. Even the dog’s owner got the giggles.
Eventually we managed to persuade Oscar to stand still and the dog to get on with its walk, and order was restored with Oscar having worked up a hearty appetite for his lunch.
The afternoon was lovely, the park was great, with tons of different areas for the children to explore, including an outside gym, a regular playground, a toddler playground and an adventure playground, and with six children ranging from 2 to 15 we managed to take advantage of them all.
I was rewarded for my picnic prowess with a distinct lack of ants and no sand in my sarnies. Result.