The History of Picnicking
In our world today, picnic simply means a pleasurable outing at which a tasty meal is eaten outdoors, preferably in a beautiful landscape. But did you know that the relaxing and carefree act of eating outdoors and sharing quality time with those you care about has its roots back in the medieval times in England?
Picnics evolved from the elaborate traditions of outdoor feasts enjoyed by the wealthy. Medieval hunting feasts and Renaissance era country banquets can be credited with laying the foundation of the outdoor dining experiences we enjoy today. The history of picnicking is credited to the Europeans, and nowadays people all around the world enjoying participating in these leisurely outings.
In Europe during the 14th century, the earliest picnics were medieval hunting feasts in England. These feasts before the hunt began were of special importance and the main foods that could be found at these feasts would be hams, baked meats and pastries.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edition, volume XI, p. 779) A picnic originally means “a fashionable social entertainment in which each person present contributed a share of the provisions; now, a pleasure party including an excursion to some spot in the country where all partake of a repast out of doors: the participants may bring with them individually the viands and means of entertainment, or the whole may be provided by someone who "gives the picnic".
The oldest print evidence of the word picnic in the English language can be traced back to 1748, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The word picnic was known in France, Germany, and Sweden before it became part of the English society. According to Wikipedia, a free online encylopedia, “the first usage of the word picnic was traced to a 16th century French text, describing a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. A theory has it that the word picnic is based on the verb piquer which means 'pick' or 'peck' with the rhyming nique perhaps meaning trifle. The 1692 edition of Origines de la Langue Franqoise de Ménage, which mentions 'piquenique' as being of recent origin, marks the first appearance of the word picnic in print. The word picnic first appeared in English texts in the mid-1700s, and may have entered the English language from this French word or from the German Picknick.”
Hundreds of years ago, a picnic meant a potluck, an entertainment at which each person contributed some dish to a common table for all to share. The change in the meaning of the term, from "everyone bringing some food" to "everyone eating out of doors" seems to have been completed by the 1860s. Dining outdoors with a casual atmosphere, no strict course menu and jovial company is something that has taken hold of not only the European countries, but in the United States. By the mid 19th century, Americans had also adopted a flair for picnicking.
In America, we are a cultural melting pot, and there are many types of foods and cultural practices available to garnish a picnic outing. There are many different types of culinary dishes and recipes which can be prepared for a picnic. Your environment might also influence the recipes you decide to make and bring along on your outdoor dining experience. If you are from the north-eastern states, you might decide to bring along a thermos of clam chowder, a variety of sweet and tasty cheeses and meats, along with your favorite red or white wine. If you are picnicking in the southern states, a hefty supply of delicious BBQ and a cooler full of your favorite beers will satisfy you and your guests! A delicious blend of aromatic coffee with a selection of cheeses, cold cut meats and breads would suffice for a pleasant picnic no matter your location. For mid-western states, hamburgers, chili and biscuits and a crisp, cold beverage would soothe the soul. For western states, a variety of upscale dining such as lobster or sushi with a heavenly dose of white wine would complete the picnic affair.
Gourmet delicacies no matter your location will supply you with an alternative to the traditional selection of sandwiches and salads. As long as you are relaxing, enjoying the scenery and affable company with scrumptious foods….you are practicing the art of picnicking!