The humble picnic has come a long way in recent years…gone are the soggy sandwiches of the past, made the night before with bread curling, eaten on the beach with a mouthful of sand which somehow embeds itself in the bread.
I think Nigella and Jamie have ‘sexed up’ the picnic, we are now expected to provide handmade wraps with homemade pork pie and individual deserts served on proper plates. I can remember my auntie laughing at the memory of my Dad trying to serve open sandwiches on a beach somewhere in the south of England. Maybe he had high hopes to elevate the traditional soggy picnic to fancy status, or may it was just pretentious– who knows!?
The Portuguese seem to have elevated the picnic to epic proportions. Tables brought out, always laid with a table cloth, cushions and rugs are scattered like an episode of the Barefoot Contessa, wine is chilled and served in glasses (not plastic cups) and full cutlery is required. Instead of sandwiches a grilled chicken or whole suckling pig is produced.
Across the countryside there are numerous local council run picnic spots, complete with full brick BBQ, seating areas and running water. These places fill up with Portuguese people every weekend throughout the summer.
Each year in June we get to see the Portuguese show off their picnic prowess as we climb the mountain to the Poco des Neves for the annual picnic and mass for St Antonio. The Poco des Neves are high up on the hill behind our house, and they are stone built huts with 30ft drops. In the past ice cut from the mountains, was stored in these huts before it was transported down the mountain by cart and then taken by river to Lisbon so the Royal Family could have cold drinks (and keep their food fresh).
It’s turned into a big community picnic (with a Mass thrown in for good measure) where everyone comes to demonstrate their picnic skills.
This year we outdid ourselves, pork and chorizo with fresh bread and a bean salad, eaten from our plates (plastic mind you) and cider drunk from proper glasses.
I expect this is what you’d call ‘going native’.