People have been eating their meals outdoors in the beauty of nature since…well, since people have been roaming the Earth. Point of fact, our modern-era idea of a picnic evolved from Medieval hunting feasts and Victorian garden parties. They were quite the sophisticated affair back in the day, which involved much fanfare – with elaborate preparations and multiple courses.
During the Middle Ages, royal hunts would often involve eating the catch outdoors. This is depicted in the many murals and other artistic works of the time. Starting as formal affairs, these events could easily descend into outright debauchery, depending on the amount of meat and wine consumed. Ah, those savages!
How did the word ‘Picnic’ originate?
The modern word ‘picnic’ is derived from the French term “pique-nique,” a term that was frequently used during the 16th century – but not for describing lunch out on the lawn. Instead, it was used to describe gourmands who brought their own wine with them as they dined out. At some point in time during the 17th century, the term began taking on a new connotation, which suggested dining outside on a blanket. It is thought that the English word ‘picnic’ began to be used around this time for that very purpose.
The History of the Modern Picnic
Then the 18th century, a group of wealthy Londoners formed “The Picnic Society” to promote the wonderful social gathering that more resembled the picnic we know today. Essentially, they were outdoor potlucks, where each participant was required to provide a food item, as well as a share of the entertainment. Society members drank from crystal goblets and enjoyed the stylings of a string quartet while indulging in their meal.
During the 19th century, a common picnic meal included chicken and roast duck, meat pies, and plum pudding. Today however, picnics are generally more relaxed affairs, often involving only a blanket and a basket of sandwiches.
Then there is, of course, the all-American picnic that is practiced in all sorts of ways, whether it is a romantic outdoor date, a family reunion gathering, or enjoying a meal out by the campfire. Many people go the traditional route and spread a red and white checkered blanket on the grass, and pack their meal in a wicker basket.
To celebrate this National Picnic Day – prepare your favorite meal, then get out to enjoy good food, good company, and most of all, the outdoors!
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