Saturday, June 7, 2014

Vintage and Modern Picnic Etiquette

Outdoor Meals Away from Home ~ The "Nose-Bag is News"

"Painless picnics! Let's have more of them. Is your family the sort that's always getting the urge to lock the door, jump in the car and get away from it all? If so, then maybe you have already learned that picnics can be less trouble than staying at home. Or, has your glow of enthusiasm become dimmed by too much sandwich making, salad fixing and egg deviling? From now on resolve to do it the casual way. Get out the hamper and the list. The hamper holds the ready packed plates, salt, sugar and napkins. The list begins with coffee and ends with matches. Best of all, it takes just about twenty minutes to run down the list and drop in things. Makings are taken instead of finished dishes. In place of sandwiches, sliced bread, butter, spreads and cold meats are tucked in. Deviled eggs simply mean that eggs were boiled while breakfast was eaten, then put in the basket along with prepared mustard, lemon and mayonnaise. By the way, have you ever eaten deviled eggs that were made while listening to the pounding of the surf or to the lilt of a bird's song in the woods? They taste twice as good. Try it for yourself sometime. On the other hand, perhaps your family likes to do everything at home and then just loaf at the picnic. Then the nose-bag is news. Many find it a distinct improvement over the regular kind of picnic because the clearing up and unpacking afterwards are eliminated this is the system: New paper bags are used, one for each member of the party. Food is packed so that it is removed in the order it is to be eaten -- sandwiches, salads (in paper containers) and pickles at the top of the bag; fruit and cookies at the bottom. Chill all foods, putting them into the bag just before leaving the house. At beach picnics, the children will like to have stunts in order to fill that long stretch between lunch and swim time. Occasionally put "stunt and penalty" slips in each nose-bag, for after lunch performance. Lunch over, each person leaves his leavings in his bag, after which the bags are collected and burned.
Forster IDEAL Picnic Package ~ Before modern day plastic sporks were available, wooden utensils like these were used for picnics.  They'd be tossed into the bags of "leavings" after the picnic, then burned before you left the picnic grounds. 
Then there are the families who go in bunches. Possibly a group of neighbors enjoy spending the day together at a park in the country. In order not to work a hardship on any single one, this plan has been most successfully tried: Each family takes its turn acting as general picnic host. The host family plans the days program from start to finish assigns to each of the six guest families a certain food to bring for the whole crowd (salad from one family, sandwiches from another, cake from another, etc...) ; furnishes the picnic dishes, the hot or cold drink, the tablecloth, the paper and kindling for the fire, and games; and assumes all table setting and clean up responsibilities. By the time summer is over, each family has served its turn only once as host, and has had six rollicking picnics to enjoy and guest role."  From "Sunset's Host and Hostess Book," 1940

The well stocked picnic hamper for your guests.

Picnic Etiquette

The summer months provide people with many wonderful opportunities to dine outside their homes; be it in their backyard, or at a park, or at the beach, picnics are a very popular dining option for people who want to enjoy the great outdoors. Meals outdoors were probably first enjoyed during the Middle Ages, when hunting feasts became a favorite activity of the leisure class. The English word “picnic" is said to come from the French word “pique-nique,” which was used in the 17th century to describe gourmands who provided their own wine when dining with out with friends.  It does not require special occasion to enjoy a picnic; just good food , good weather and good company.

For the Guests:

Offer to bring a dish.  If the hosts accepts your offer, double the recipe in case extra guests attend.

Ask your host if children are allowed, if not specified on the invitation.  Sometimes the host does not specify when it is an "adults only" affair.

If the hosts have the food arranged buffet style, just take one serving.  You can always go back for seconds. Everyone has attended events where the guests in front of them pile their plates high, and then there is hardly any food remaining, by the time the people at the end of the line are ready to help themselves.

If you are a vegetarian, the time to ask your host about the meatless options available is when you are responding to the invitation, not when the food is being served.

Be considerate when playing outdoor games, especially if your group is sharing space with others who are having picnics of their own.

Watch foul language, avoid heated discussions, and watch your alcohol intake.  Keep the environment festive and fun.

Clean up after yourself.  Your hosts will have enough to deal without having to be on trash duty.

Thank your host for an enjoyable time. Following up with a written note of thanks is always a nice touch.

For the Host and/or Hostess:

Make sure your guests have a comfortable environment to enjoy the foods you have prepared.

If possible, use colorful, partitioned plastic picnic dishes.  Partitions make it easier to put meat, vegetables and salad all on one plate. Regular plates are fine, but partition plates can make serving oneself easier.

Have a variety of refreshing beverages on hand, alcoholic and nonalcoholic in nature, along with plenty of water to keep your guests refreshed and hydrated.

Old standby picnic foods such as hamburgers, hot dogs and vegetarian versions of these for your vegetarian guests, are always great comfort foods. Other finger foods, such as corn on the cob are usually enjoyed by all in the picnic setting.

If you are hosting a picnic away from home, invest in a sturdy hamper, a basket that is light , with a long life and plenty of room for the food, utensils and beverage containers. Waterproof paper bags for leftovers, paper napkins and such, are wise to have on hand if there are no waste receptacles nearby.

No matter how choose to picnic, make sure you have a good time and thank your guests for coming. Remember, there are other places they could’ve chosen to spend their time and they chose to spend it with you!

The Art of Packing a Picnic Hamper 
by Amy Vanderbilt, 1957

"It’s an art to pack a picnic hamper with the kind of food that makes picnickers glad they didn’t stay at home. Cold fried chicken or little cold veal or ham pies, English style, make delicious out-of-hand eating. Chicken or potato salad in a glass jar combine easily at the picnic spot with crisp lettuce which has been brought separately in a damp towel and like the other foods mentioned are, to my mind, more palatable than a much traveled sandwich. There are all sorts of good things that can be put in picnic jugs and served piping hot hours later – spaghetti with mushrooms and chicken livers, for instance, or baked beans or even thick fish chowder.

If you are going to a distant picnic ground, it is preferable to take food in vacuum jugs and bottles rather than to light a fire, unless specific campsite has been set up in safe places. Or, if there are really able woodsman in your party that can manage a campfire so it doesn’t smoke of the gas and ruined the food, be sure every spark is extinguished with water or loose dirt before you leave, and obliterate all signs of your presence, so others may enjoy the woods or beach as you have."

Compiled by contributor Demita Usher of Social Graces and Savoir Faire

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