A picnic can be as low key or as high brow as you want but for me, the perfect picnic is simple food, with great friends/ family in a shady spot under a lovely old tree.
When my son and his three cousins were all at boarding school, the tradition was that on the school Founder’s Day the parents would bring a picnic. My brother and his wife, and my husband and I would park in the carpark with all the other parents. This being rather a posh private school, we’d gaze in astonishment at the picnic preparations coming out of the back of Land Rovers and Volvos. Altogether too competitive for me. Some of the parents would bring little gazebos and proper tables and chairs, with tablecloths, napkins and silver, maybe even a vase of flowers in the middle. And champagne in a bucket on a stand.
I wasn’t up to all that. The South African in me associates picnics with sandwiches half way up a mountain, grilled fish on the rocks, maybe a braai in the back garden. As a child, my favourite was buttered Marie biscuits (a bit like rich tea) sprinkled with hundreds and thousands. My two brothers and I would watch as our Mum or nanny slowly buttered a biscuit, added the sprinkles and handed it to one of us. I was always anxious that there would be one left over and I wouldn’t get it!
Anyway, back to English picnics. I soon realised that those Founder’s Day picnics were most enjoyed by both families if we carried our picnic rug and basket as far away from the carpark as possible and settled for a shady spot under the trees, preferably by the river. We always had the same food: Wholemeal smoked salmon sandwiches (avocado for my veggie half of the family) well buttered, followed by Eton Mess in little plastic pots.