Model: Steff Benton/Bye Bye Bailey
Photographer: Arianna Fenton Photography
Styling: Jacqueline Benton
Spring has sprung! The daffodils are in bloom, the birds are twittering and with any luck, the bitterly cold winter will have started to loosen its icy grip for our readers both near and far.
Does anyone remember those wonderful days out as a little child? When I was younger we used to live on the North Cornish coast and my Mum would pack us a little selection of salads, sandwiches and soft drink. There was nothing quite like watching her put together a hamper and our soft little tartan blanket before setting off. This tradition would last long into the summer months; though, sometimes, we’d settle for sitting out on the patio with a pot of tea and some nibbles; so long as it was sunny.
Here in Britain we do love a good picnic! The word itself is derived from the French ‘pique-nique’; ‘picquer’ meaning ‘to pick’ and ‘nique’ used as a rhyming word, perhaps as we would say ‘hoity-toity’ or ‘fancy-schmancy’.
The original pique-nique refers to a social gathering for which the guests brought food to share. It didn’t become well known in English until the 1800s. Eventually pique-nique became ‘picnic’ once the term became associated with outdoor dining in the mid-1800s, and then became associated with what it is today; a casual meal eaten in an often-pastoral setting that anyone may contribute to, or one person putting it together exclusively.
There are no hard and fast rules for picnics and picnic food but traditional elements would certainly include sandwiches. A personal favourite of mine is salmon and cucumber as they’re instantly refreshing and tasty to boot, though cheddar cheese and pickle is another contender from my childhood. Jams and preserves can add a sweet fix. Potato salads are another very portable picnic item they are easy to make and pop in a container. Whack in some paprika with chives and mayonnaise and you have something very moreish to have out in the countryside!
Fruit is a must and I love pears, most of all for their softness and sweetness. Delicious! Feeling naughtier? Pack a tin of biscuits! Chocolate bourbon anyone? When it came to drinks Mum and I would have sodas or cordials, though in adulthood we’ve since replaced this with a Prosecco or a vintage cider!
Perhaps, as the sun gets a little hotter, we can all take a little inspiration from the Mediterranean countries and dine al-fresco. The term is borrowed from the Italian “in the cool (air)”, and is a form of dining we have all seem to have taken into our hearts. Inherently sociable, it is something to be partaken with friends and drinks. Most restaurants have an option to eat outdoors now too. It feels like a real treat… assuming it’s not raining, that is. That might not stop me pedantically sitting out there under a picnic umbrella with a cup of tea; I am British after all.
But … what does one wear for such an occasion?
I’ve opted for a tea dress – the one I’m wearing is an original 50s and fits like it was made for me. I adore it! I’m a little on the curvy side so I love the crossover bust and the gentle skirt flare. The florals are very ‘spring’, too! Wear with or without a petticoat, though I find the petticoat adds an extra layer for when I’m dining in the evening. A matching cardigan thrown over that then keeps the arms warm, even if you just drape it over your shoulders. A hat is a good idea too (like the cloche I’m wearing), to keep your eyes shaded from the sun; or maybe a scarf to stop the wind messing up your hair.
As I’ve said, there’s no absolute rules for this, just have fun! Perhaps as the days get longer again, you too can pack up a meal and take to the great outdoors. Bon appetit!