July is National Picnic Month!
We love to picnic, whether a day out at the beach, a picnic walk with the family just out at our local park. We’ve picnicked for as long as I can remember. It’s an easy way to feed a family, meet up with a group of people or fuel kids on an adventure.
But where did the idea of picnics come from?
The word picnic comes from the French Picque-Nique. First appearing in the 1600s. It was used to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. It then became known as a meal to which everyone contributed something. Perhaps it was based on the verb piquer, to “pick” and nique “a small amount.”
In the 18th century picnics were very popular with the aristocracy. They could either bring a dish or pay a share of the cost.
During the French Revolution French aristocrats fled, bringing their picnicking traditions with them. Many settling in London. They were short of money but wanted to maintain their old way of life. The ‘Pic Nic Society’ was formed. Food, wine, singing, dancing and gambling.
The emerging middle class, socially aspirational, took up picnics and moved outdoors. They became more of a simple meal in the countryside to which the host invited guests.
Jane Austen and Charles Dickens both include picnics in their books and Mrs Beaton includes picnic menus in her "Book of Household Management", 1861.
Today our picnics are simple. Sandwiches, scotch eggs and nibbles. Easily portable food with a picnic blanket and perhaps some games to keep the youngsters amused.