Now that English people are becoming more devoted to outdoor recreations and sports, it becomes necessary for the housekeeper to understand the satisfactory packing of hampers of food, no matter what the excuse may be for the al fresco meal in the open air.
Exercise and fresh air have a wonderfully stimulating effect on the appetite, and a number of unromantically hungry and healthy people require more substantial fare than frail sandwiches and cake. The recipes here given for both sweet and savoury dishes are easy to carry, and always popular.
Fitting up the Hamper. The boxes of cardboard picnic sets of plates, dishes, etc., are most excellent and very moderate in price, usually from Is. to 2S., according to the numbers contained in the box. Paper drinking-cups, with holders, cost from about 9d. per dozen, or many people prefer thin horn tumblers. These articles are far more convenient than taking the crockery and glass from the house, being lighter and unbreakable, both important points; also the paper sets are destroyed when done with, so no washing-up is entailed. It is better to avoid using good plate or cutlery, owing to the risk of loss.
Procure a good store of grease-proof paper, costing from 4 1/2d. to 6 1/2d. per quire, as it is invaluable for packing the food in. Pretty paper sets of table-napkins and cloths should be used, not damask, the former being made in the daintiest drawn thread and other designs.
Hot or iced beverages may be carried safely in the patent flasks now so much used, with the comforting knowledge that the soup or tea, iced coffee or lemonade will be found at just the correct temperature when needed.
Jellies, creams, and all moulds should not be turned out, but carried in the moulds. Tin moulds are much lighter than earthenware, and will not break. If the moulds are very slightly oiled, the shapes will slip out without the aid of hot water, or, what is better is to pour in the mixture when just on the point of setting.
Bread or bread-and-butter and sandwiches should be wrapped in clean cabbage-leaves, and then in slightly damped table-napkins. Cakes are best uncut, and carried in light tins or wrapped in grease-proof paper.
Beef galantine, shaped into a neat roll, is both appetising and satisfying. The ornamentation may be omitted when intended for a picnic
Meats, etc., should be wrapped in grease-proof paper.
Mustard can be taken dry, and mixed when needed.
Lemonade is in great demand, as a rule, and to avoid bulk and weight, squeeze the juice, strain it, add the sugar, and then bottle it, adding the cold water when needed. This is a simple matter if good drinking water is procurable at the spot selected for the repast. It is often possible to obtain mineral waters of various kinds at a cottage comparatively near to the picnic ground. This saves much carrying of heavy bottles.
In theory it is very delightful to gather sticks and boil kettles gipsy fashion, but experience advocates a tin kettle and spirit lamp, these rendering one independent of damp wood, lack of or too much draught, and smoky water. Boiling water, and even the requisite cups, can also be borrowed from a friendly cottager.
It is well to remember that a gloom has been cast over many a picnic by the absence of matches, salt, sugar, corkscrew, mineral water, bottle and tin opener, and the all-important tea itself.
When the picnic is all over, all papers and wrappers should either be returned to the now empty hampers or securely buried. The careless leaving about of bottles and pieces of paper has entirely closed many a charming spot to the public.