BY LINDA MONDOUX
Been on a picnic lately?
For me, the definition of a picnic is any eating held outdoors, except on a deck or patio. It could be as simple as sitting on a log way up in the Blue Mountains and enjoying a picnic lunch of chickpea and tomato salad, with a juicy orange for dessert. Or a bag of cherries and a chunk of cheese shared while resting on a bench overlooking the sandy beach in Leamington.
I was reading up on the history of picnics recently and found some interesting stuff at Food Timeline
, the place for everything you ever wanted to know about the origins of food. Among the research is “The Bill of Fare for a Picnic for 40 Persons,” found in The Book of Household Management
by Isabella Beeton, first published in a bound edition in 1861. Apparently picnics were not so simple then. Here’s Mrs. Beeton’s advice on what to bring:
A joint of cold roast beef, a joint of cold boiled beef, 2 ribs of lamb, 2 shoulders of lamb, 4 roast fowls, 2 roast ducks, 1 ham, 1 tongue, 2 veal-and-ham pies, 2 pigeon pies, 6 medium-sized lobsters, 1 piece of collared calf's head, 18 lettuces, 6 baskets of salad, 6 cucumbers.
Stewed fruit well sweetened, and put into glass bottles well corked; 3 or 4 dozen plain pastry biscuits to eat with the stewed fruit, 2 dozen fruit turnovers, 4 dozen cheesecakes, 2 cold cabinet puddings in moulds, 2 blancmanges in moulds, a few jam puffs, 1 large cold plum-pudding (this must be good), a few baskets of fresh fruit, 3 dozen plain biscuits, a piece of cheese, 6 lbs. of butter (this, of course, includes the butter for tea), 4 quarter loaves of household bread, 3 dozen rolls, 6 loaves of tin bread (for tea), 2 plain plum cakes, 2 pound cakes, 2 sponge cakes, a tin of mixed biscuits, 1/2 lb, of tea. Coffee is not suitable for a picnic, being difficult to make.
Things not to be forgotten at a Picnic.
A stick of horseradish, a bottle of mint-sauce well corked, a bottle of salad dressing, a bottle of vinegar, made mustard, pepper, salt, good oil, and pounded sugar. If it can be managed, take a little ice. It is scarcely necessary to say that plates, tumblers, wine glasses, knives, forks, and spoons, must not be forgotten; as also teacups and saucers, 3 or 4 teapots, some lump sugar, and milk, if this last-named article cannot be obtained in the neighbourhood. Take 3 corkscrews.
Beverages: 3 dozen quart bottles of ale, packed in hampers; ginger-beer, soda-water, and lemonade, of each 2 dozen bottles; 6 bottles of sherry, 6 bottles of claret, champagne a discretion, and any other light wine that may be preferred, and 2 bottles of brandy. Water can usually be obtained so it is useless to take it.
I found it interesting that Mrs. Beeton made a point of urging her readers not to forget the booze, but didn’t mention ant traps, fly paper or other contraptions meant to keep picnickers from going buggy.
For picnic haters, the major turnoff is that these rites of summer are held in the great outdoors. And that means you are at the mercy of the weather and all creatures great and small. Especially small. Like ants and flies. And bees.
How to keep them away?
A wise person knows that the only surefire cure is to move your feast inside or to a screened enclosure, which means your picnic is no longer a picnic. If you want to stay outside, you can always try what a poster on Poor Richard’s Almanac jokingly suggests as the answer to pest control: toss fresh roadkill or a piece of raw meat a good way from your picnic area and the bugs will follow.
Elsewhere online, someone suggests a bug-repellant tablecloth, but I doubt that is on Health Canada’s list of smart things to do.
You can always light citronella torches and place them around your eating area (choke, choke). Or you can even have a bonfire, if you’re lucky enough to have a picnic at a private compound, or on a deserted beach.
But really, should a picnic be this complicated? I’d rather enjoy nature the way it was created — bugs and all. Even if that means sharing my picnic with an ant or two, or three, or ....
So relax and give in to nature. If you’re travelling this summer, try one of MyNewWaterfrontHome.com’s Top 10 favourite picnic spots listed below, the majority of which are the kind of quiet locations best suited for a sandwich and a beverage, rather than a full-on formal picnic. For those who don’t like sitting on the ground, we also include spots with picnic tables and overhead shelter.
Luckily, no matter where you live, you don’t have to travel far to find a nice location for an impromptu picnic — many scenic spots can be found in your own community. Just ask around!
If you’re still worried that bugs will ruin your outdoor dining experience, try packing Mrs. Beeton’s recommended picnic basket. You’ll be so drunk on ale, sherry, claret, champagne, wine and brandy that you won’t notice how much flying or crawling protein you just ate! Pack three corkscrews and you’ll be ready for anything.
TOP 10 PICNIC SPOTS (in no specific order):
The large flat rock 120 metres up the cliff at Eagle’s Nest
, a sacred native lookout located an easy 1.5-kilometre climb from Highway 508 in the Calabogie
Highlands of Greater Madawaska. You’ll love the panoramic view of trees, creek and rolling hills in the distance. The absence of cars and city noise is a delicious treat.
, atop Foley Mountain in Westport
, about 50 kilometres south of Perth. Similar rocky ridge table for your picnic as at Eagle’s Nest, but expect more people to join you as this spot is definitely on the tourist radar. The view here, looking out over Upper Rideau Lake, the village of Westport and the trees beyond, is a feast for the eyes, especially in fall when the colours change.
Viewing platform, Albion Falls
’s King’s Forest Park. Bring your picnic lunch and relax on the bench on a viewing platform in front of the 19-metre high cascade, located in the city’s east end off Mud Street (exit on Dartnell Road from the Lincoln Alexander Parkway). Albion Falls, whose source is Red Hill Creek, is rated as #1 on the Hamilton Conservation Authority’s Top 10 waterfalls. You’ll want to beat the crowds by coming early in the morning for a breakfast picnic, or at the end of the day when the bulk of visitors have gone home.
, Point Pelee National Park, on the eastern edge of Leamington
. The passive park is where you’ll find 20 kilometres of sandy beach, hiking and cycling trails galore, an observation tower that serves up magnificent views of the marsh boardwalk and Lake Erie beyond, and the famous “Tip” — the thin strip of land that juts into the lake, offering breathtaking panoramic vistas. From the sandy Tip, which happens to be the farthest point south in mainland Canada, you can see Pelee Island, a mostly agricultural community that is home to Pelee Island Winery’s vineyards, along with the distant towering wind turbines in the countryside across the water to the east. For a more pleasurable picnic, don’t come too early in the season when the deer flies are biting mad, or too late in the fall when the Tip is often partially covered with water.
On the beach
on the shore of Georgian Bay in Craigleith
, part of the Town of the Blue Mountains, west of Collingwood. You won’t have to worry about sand in your food, or finding a picnic table. Craigleith’s famous 450-million-year-old exposed bedrock along the shoreline provides a natural table for your picnic, with panoramic views of the bay and the Niagara Escarpment. The fossilized remains of trilobites, an extinct marine animal, in the exposed bedrock are the prime attraction of Craigleith, which is one of few places in southern Ontario where the ancient Blue Mountain shale has been exposed. Don’t forget your bathing suit for a pre-picnic swim in the bay’s crystal clear waters.
On the banks of the Rideau Canal Waterway
, known as “The Jewel of the Rideau.” Enjoy your picnic at a table on the large grass lawn near the museum blockhouse, and watch the boats pass through the locks. A major feature in the village, which spans both sides of the scenic Rideau River, is the set of three canal locks that operate as they did back almost 180 years ago. The waterway itself is a World Heritage site that connects Kingston in the south to Ottawa in the north.
on Lake Huron in Kincardine
. Crawl up on one of the beach’s iconic giant blue chairs (you can easily fit two adults on one chair) and enjoy your picnic while catching a breeze and soaking in those oh-so-aqua lake views. Plan to be there for a late picnic around sunset in summer, when you’ll hear the sounds of the Phantom Piper as he serenades the sun to sleep from his post atop the old lighthouse located in downtown Kincardine. The beach, with just a little more than one kilometre of sandy shoreline, is bounded by a boardwalk, so you can walk off your picnic with a stroll downtown.
On the steps
of the Thousand Islands Playhouse
while on a walkabout in downtown Gananoque
. No one will mind if you stake out a spot on the stairs leading down to the boat dock on the shores of the St. Lawrence River — as long as it’s not theatre night, or you’ll get stepped on! If you are coming to take in a play or concert, come early and grab a bench on the verandah and enjoy your lunch. The theatre describes itself as “the most scenic in Canada,” and it is not exaggerating. There is something both mesmerizing and calming about this wide-angle view over the river and the Thousand Islands beyond.
, along the river in Owen Sound
. Choose a picnic table under the covered pavilion, where you will enjoy views of the Sydenham River, with its colourful kayaks, as a nice breeze flows through the trees and across the vast expanse of green lawn. Harrison Park is the crown jewel of Owen Sound. With its 40 hectares of streams, trails, gardens, playgrounds, forest and green space, this is definitely paradise found in the heart of the city. Before or after your picnic, rent a canoe or paddleboat, play a game of mini-putt, shoot hoops, toss horseshoes or simply watch the salmon jump.
At the Kissing Rock
, where you can steal a kiss between bites of an impromptu picnic. Located at the top of Lock 7, the highest on the Welland Canal, Kissing Rock is the perfect spot for a quick picnic lunch, a romantic smooch and, if your timing is right, a closeup view of one of the many ships that pass through the canal. According to sailor legend, kissing your loved one at the Kissing Rock, located in the garden area of the Lock 7 Viewing Complex, will bring you everlasting luck and happiness. Try going during the week, or off-season, unless you want to share your picnic lunch — and romantic kiss — with strangers!
MyNewWaterfrontHome.com — July 2012