Tuesday, March 6, 2012

victorian picnics

from we heart it

Nobody can deny that spring is coming up; even though it's been pretty cold in my neck of the woods for the past few days, I can still smell the fresh spring air sneaking up, even though the Kentucky weather is trying to trick us by dumping three inches of snow in my backyard.  I love spring because it's a great time to wear florals, pastels, and spend some quality time outdoors, which is something that might not be easy other parts of the year, because of extreme heat or extreme cold.

I think that picnics are a great meetup idea because they can really bring people together with nice food and good atmosphere.  Potluck picnics are especially fun because it gives people an opportunity to get creative with their cooking and maybe make something that they wouldn't have made before; on the flip side, it also lets people try new things that they might not have tried before!  Before my local community went defunct, we use to have almost regular picnics in the spring and summertime, usually at a nice lake in a town on the outskirts of Lexington, Kentucky.  With the amount of active, local girls picking up, I'm hoping that we will once again be able to have cute picnics by the lake!

Claude Monet
Outdoor eating excursions have their roots in medieval hunting feasts; however, the word 'picnic' first appeared in the mid-1700s.  While the French 'pique-nique' originally meant a meal where everyone brought something to eat (in the same vein as the modern potluck) the current use of the word came about in the beginning of the Victorian era.  The Victorian era had many rules and regulations surrounding meals, and so people wanted to break away from that and eat outside, where it was considerably less formal.  That isn't to say that there weren't a separate set of dining rules revolving around outdoor eating, but again, it was less formal so more enjoyable.  The Victorian lunch was itself the least formal meal, so taking it outdoors gives it an even more casual feeling.  You can read more about the history here.

In keeping with the Victorian traditions, here is a list of tips and recipes that you can use to bring some Victorian influence into your own picnics, whether they're with other lolitas, your friends, or just yourself.
  • Tea!  A main staple of Victorian culture was the intake of tea, and it's still a very popular drink (in fact, it is the second most consumed drink in the world, second only to water!)  Iced tea is always refreshing on a hot summer day, and is actually a pretty big part of Southern food.  We like to put tons of sugar in it, but of course this isn't necessary!
  • Tea sandwiches!  These are little sandwiches, usually cut into small, bite-sized squares, with the crusts taken off.  They can have any sort of insides, but popular fillings include cucumbers and cream cheese, tuna, egg salad, salmon, and watercress.  Other tasty treats could include cream cheese and fruit jams, turkey, ham, and really anything else that you can think to put in a sandwich.
  • Scones and clotted cream!  Scones are staples of the cream tea menu, which is basically a less-intense high tea.  They come in many different flavours, including sweet ones and savoury ones.  Clotted cream (also called Devonshire cream) is like a combination of whipped cream and butter; even though it looks like it should be really sweet, it's not, but it is still delicious!  I fell in love with scones and clotted cream when I visited England last summer.  It can be bought in the store or made, as seen in this recipe.  Another treat that you can spread on scones if you're not partial to clotted cream is lemon curd, which is a creamy lemon spread; also very delicious!
  • Petit fours!  These little French confections are perfect for little tea parties and picnics because they are portable and bite-sized.  Here are some basics on making the cute little treats.
  • Mincemeat pies or tarts!  These little things can have a lot of sustenance to them because they're made out of meat and dried fruits.  Here is a little more information about them, as well as a recipe at the end (and some cute ideas for decorating them!)
  • Cupcakes!  A wonderful, classic standby and what I always go for when I can't think of anything else to make!  As you probably know, there are endless combinations of flavours and decorations and they are generally pretty easy to make, even for beginner bakers.
If you're not so concerned about having a "Victorian-inspired" picnic, then the sky is really the limit.  In the past, we've always grilled hot dogs and burgers, had potato and pasta salad, and eaten other traditional American picnic food, which is always tasty.  I hope that this year I can go to, and host, more picnics, both for my local lolita crowd and for my personal friends.

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