I love picnics. Eating outside is one of life’s great pleasures, whether it be a gourmet picnic packed by the Bedarra chefs laden with prawns and tropical fruit and champagne, a pizza bought at a stall just off the Pantheon Piazza in Rome, or simply an ice-cream … well … anywhere.
We grew up eating a lot of morning and afternoon teas outside; we’d often deliver these to my dad when he was working in a paddock a long way from the house. A sandwich* or scone*, biscuit* or cake, and a thermos full of hot, sweet tea. Bliss. But we didn’t have that many main meals al fresco, and so when we did, it was a real occasion.
My earliest picnic memories are probably of the school prize-giving day. At the end of the year (the beginning of our summer), our tiny primary school of around 30-40 children and two teachers and all the parents (largely self-employed farmers who all took the day off), would pack up and go to a local, beautiful park for the day. We’d all play softball, from age 5 through to 50 or beyond, and then there’d be races – egg and spoon, three-legged races, parents’ races, etc. We’d wander through all the gardens, check out the pond, play games and sit on the lawn, chatter under the trees. Before the races but after the softball, we’d all retreat under the big oak trees for shade, and eat our picnic lunch. Bacon and egg pie was always on the menu, and an enormous treat. We only ever had it on picnics. The cool, flaky pastry, the smooth egg white, the yellow yolk, and the burst of flavour from the bacon. These tastes and textures still instantly bring back memories of summer with my family, my friends, cousins, aunts and uncles.
* I think these all have different meanings in NZ and North America