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Planning a picnic has become a military operation.

Byline: LAURA DAVIS

THE boiled eggs and gala pie of childhood picnics past were not in evidence at Crosby marine lake on Saturday.

Instead, groups of 30-somethings in floral dresses and combat shorts lazed on Kath Kidston-style blankets, sipping chilled Pinot Grigio from glasses the size of goldfish bowls.

Gangly teenagers lurked near the water, using the "Danger, do not swim" signs as giant bottle openers. Then they wandered on, unconsciously menacing, as they swigged back their Kronenbourg.

Where were the squashed cheese and pickle sandwiches, the bottles of Panda pop and - on special occasions - the Salt 'n' Shake crisps (with the little blue bags removed by Mum), that made up every 1980s family picnic?

And - in the case of the lolloping teens - the sulphuric acid cider that any self-respecting underage drinker used to carry in his Head bag in the early 90s?

My friends assure me that my childhood of hopscotch and folk festivals was one spent in "Enid

Blyton-land". My sister and I did seem to spend a lot of time helping our parents to push our beloved Morris Minor to start its tired-out engine and, one Christmas, actually found whips and tops in our stockings (although we could never get the hang of them and they were neglected in favour of our Strawberry Shortcake dolls and skipping ropes).

But even taking being born into a world of nostalgia into consideration, it seems to me that when ghetto-blaster/portable fridge hybrids and solar-operated winecoolers came in, picnics lost something of their romance.

What the yummy mummies and dishy daddies may not know, in their competition to outdo each other's floral print retro coolboxes and designer deckchairs, is that picnics evolved from Medieval hunting feasts when an array of food was served before the chase.

The word is believed to have come from the French "piquenique" - based on the verb "piquer", meaning to pick or peck, and "nique" meaning something of little importance.

Rumours posted on the internet in 1999, that the term came from group lynching of African-Americans, were later revealed to be unfounded.

After the French Revolution, when the royal parks were thrown open to the public, Paris was the centre for al fresco lunching.

In 18th century England, each participant would bring a dish that would be placed on a table outdoors for all to share.

The practice rose in popularity during the Victorian era, when the fayre was far more lavish than a ham and mustard butty and a few pickled onions.

In her Book of Household Management of 1861, cookery writer Mrs Beeton recommended taking, for 40 people, (deep breath): joints of cold roast beef and cold boiled beef, two ribs of lamb, two shoulders of lamb, four roast fowls, two roast ducks, one ham, one tongue, two veal and ham pies, two pigeon pies, six medium lobsters, one piece of collard calf's head, 18 lettuces, six baskets of salad, and six cucumbers.

And for pudding: stewed fruit well sweetened, three or four dozen plain pastry biscuits, two dozen fruit turnovers, four dozen cheesecakes, two cold cabinet puddings in moulds, two blancmanges in moulds, a few jam puffs, one large cold plum pudding, a few baskets of fresh fruit, three dozen plain biscuits, a piece of cheese, 6lbs of butter, four quarter loaves of household bread, three dozen rolls, six loaves of tin bread, two plain plum cakes, two pound cakes, two sponge cakes, a tin of mixed biscuits and 1/2 lb of tea.

How long this extravagant spread was expected to last is unclear, but fortunately she also advised packing three dozen bottles of ale, six bottles of sherry and two of brandy as well as assorted soft drinks which to wash it all down.

The popular Victorian estion aid, odcocks Wind Pills, was not mentioned.

lauradavis@dailypost.co.uk

It seems to me, picnics lost something of their romance
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 26, 2006
Words:648
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