I love the idea of picnics. I have a proper picnic basket. It sits unused at home, pristine and glistening. I’m afraid to use it in case I lose any of its components. It is like a relic, awaiting my retirement.
When I was small, picnics were warm tomato sandwiches laced with the crunch of sand on Clonea beach. I’d eat them without a care, plonked on a rock by my sisters with the promise of ice cream. Despite their best efforts, I was permanently sunburned. We lived above our chemist shop in the square, so plenty of aftersun and sympathy were always available — the former would be applied as I sucked on a stick of rock to placate me.
The dinkiest picnic item I ever saw was at a recent fair in Ballymaloe. JR Ryall, a pastry chef, professed his love of picnics and produced a loaf. Within its hollowed-out interior were the tiniest, most delicate sandwiches, all layered up inside. The top of the loaf was replaced to cocoon them safely for a train journey he was taking later. He graciously donated a Lilliputian one from the top layer. It was deliciously ethereal, gone in a whisper. I wanted more but it was not to be. I felt lazy, as I would never go to that trouble for a sandwich, but it did inspire me.
So today I’m attempting to up my game and hopefully do a bit of inspiring myself. No more jamming chicken fillet rolls, crisps and biscuits into a backpack and heading off. From now on I will be accessorised to a T, complete with my shiny picnic basket brimming with perfectly formed goodies.
These dishes are, of course, all adaptable to different locations. I wouldn’t judge you if you abandoned any schlepping and ate these in the comfort of your own home. Try eating them outside, though, just as a gesture.
Recipe: Tear and share red pepper, red onion and feta scone
Recipe: Stuffed picnic loaf
Recipe: Pea and poached salmon salad