LSV Blog by Le Savoir Vivre

There's a little FRENCH in all of us...

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Chic, a picnic !

The picnic has a strong gathering power. It is enjoyed everywhere in the world, in any nation, religion, culture or social class. Thanks to a picnic, you will enjoy a charming, peaceful, romantic, friendly moment, escape some formal behaviour rules, temporarily forget table manners, change your feeding routines and be fully connected with nature.

This true moment of relaxation, friendliness and sharing may be enjoyed with family, friends, or as a couple. You just have to find a nice place, some grass, some sand or an equipped area. It may be by the sea, in a garden, in the countryside, down the mountains, in a vineyard, near a river, and even in the desert. The generous nature invites us when the weather turns mild, to unrestrainedly master the Art of picnicking.

The more rustic, the more charming and the merrier it will be. Even though it has been popular for many years (this Art of living apparently goes back to Antiquity), the word itself only appeared in France in the common language in the 17th century.

At that time, it meant nibbling some little bites, brought by everyone (each one pays his/her share) for a friendly and informal meal away from home (but at that time, not necessarily outdoor and on the grass!). People would say “take a picnic meal”. The word spread in the literature during the second half of the 18th century.

The picnic was highly prized among the French and British aristocracy who transformed it in a moment of luxurious Elegance. Then it became very popular in France with the revolutionary picnics (picnics on the lawns of the Versailles Castle!) and even more at the beginning of the 19th century with the paid vacations.

In England, it spread at the end of the 18th century with the movement of romanticism. At that time the word meant “a fashionable social entertainment in which each person present contributed a share of the provisions’’ according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Picnic Society transformed the picnic (from French pique-nique) into a very popular activity. It should be said that it was a loophole to the very strict rules of The Victorian Society protocol! And it even became, according to the same dictionary, "a pleasure party including an excursion to some spot in the country where all partake of a repast out of doors: the participants may bring with them individually the viands and means of entertainment, or the whole may be provided by someone who "gives the picnic".

Nowadays, many castles and parks offer picnicking activities on their beautiful lawns; some with theme and costumes or sophisticated settings. But this art became a urban phenomenon with picnics in neighbourhoods, restaurants …

  • In Paris the state-of-the-art one is certainly the Prix de Diane Longines in Chantilly where stylish women wear their most beautiful hat

  • In several countries, the « Diner en Blanc » is an eagerly anticipated event: at the last minute, the secret location is revealed to thousands of friends who have all been patiently waiting to learn where “Dîner en Blanc” will take place. Thousands of people, dressed all in white, and conducting themselves with the greatest decorum, elegance, and etiquette, all meet for a mass “chic picnic” in a public space.

  • Finally, a must do : a picnic prepared by the Muang La Lodge, after hiking in the Laos lush forests to meet the Khamu people.

Protocole for a posh picnic with elegant manners: a nice plaid blanket, a refined tablecloth, monogrammed napkins, porcelain or faience tableware, silverware (more eco-friendly than plastic cutlery!) without forgetting champagne flutes. All of this well stored in the beautiful wicker baskets created by Les Jardins de la Comtesse, European leader in the field, which isothermal compartments that keep the food either chilled or warm.

No posh picnic without a fine meal! We love Ladurée’s recommendations in the book: “Pique-Niques chics”: foie gras terrine, mini lobster club sandwich, vegetable gazpacho, strawberry and rhubarb cupcakes and mint-anise macarons… We will serve this feast with champagne (Ruinart Blanc de Blancs) and for those who do not drink alcohol, with a delicious cider, 100 % natural, non filtered and a mixture of 5 apple varieties pressed using traditional methods.

Other Etiquette tips :

- Dress up according to the place, the kind of picnic and follow the dress code if there is one.

- Don’t forget the hat, the sunglasses, sunscreen and mosquito repellent!

- For places without tables or chairs, bring along a nice plaid blanket in addition to the tablecloth.

- Set the table on a nice tablecloth like at home.

- Men stand up to greet the women. Women may stay seated.

- Once the picnic is over, leave the site on which you’ve just picnicked so nobody could be able to suspect you had lunch here.

Mild weather is back, Great, a Picnic !!

by Catherine Soulas Baron

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