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Picnic

PICNIC

PICNIC. There is no reliable etymology for the word picnic, with the original use of the word lagging about three hundred years behind the first descriptions of alfresco (open air) dining. From about 1340 until the very early 1800s, there are three contextual descriptions of picnics, whether or not the word is actually used: a pleasure party at which a meal was eaten outdoors; a hunt assembly; and an indoor social gathering or dinner party. An outdoor meal in a garden is described in Italian literature by Giovanni Boccaccio in a poem that dates from about 1340. Sixty years later a similar event occurs in one of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. It seems certain that the assemblée, or meal served during the hunt that is described and illustrated in the hunt manual of Jacques du Fouilloux's La Vénerie (Hunting) (1560) and George Turberville's The Noble Arte of Venerie (1575), are picnics in all but name. By 1692, the concept of the alfresco meal shifted, and when cited in Gilles Ménage's Dictionnaire du Etymologique de la Langue Françoise (Etymological dictionary of the French language) piquenique is assumed to be of unknown origin, but means un repas où chacun paye son écot (a meal where each pays his share). By 1750, Ménage's editors suggest that piquenique may be of Spanish origin and that it appeared in 1664 in a French translation of works by Francisco Quevedo. Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of Great Britain, had a dinner served on the grounds of Hyde Park in 1654. Samuel Pepys, the English diarist, ate many meals while boating on the Thames or sitting on its banks. These are picnics in all but name, but they are only recorded as a dinner alfresco.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that the word "picnic" originally referred to fashionable social entertainment in which each person contributed a share of the provisions, and says that the first recorded use of "picnic" in English appears in 1748 in a letter from Lord Chesterfield to his son, in the sense of an assembly or social gathering. It seems that the word was used in this sense widely in Germany, as Chesterfield's son was in Berlin at the time. A subsequent mention occurs in a letter from Lady M. Coke to Lady Stafford in 1763 from Hanover. Gustaf Palmfelt, a Swede, in a 1738 translation into Swedish used "picnick" (in the sense of an assembly); Swedish continues to use "picnick" and suggests that it is of French or English origin. Larousse Gastronomique (2002) states that 'picnic' is a contraction of pique (to pick), piquante (sharp or pungent), and nique (of small value). This suggestion seems commonsensical, but it is guesswork based on the technique of word formation by clipping words together to form a new word.

In the arts and literature, picnics tend to be more concerned with place, action, and figurative meanings and less concerned with food, if it is mentioned at all. Oliver Goldsmith, whom Georgina Battiscombe (English Picnics, 1949) credits with describing the first picnic in English literature in The Vicar of Wakefield (1766) provides these bare bones: "Our family dined in the field, and we sat, or rather, reclined round a temperate repast, our cloth spread upon the hay." Battiscombe insists that a picnic must be a meal eaten outdoors to which diners bring something to eat, even if there is no sharing. She suggests that before the Romantics made nature fashionable "no one connected the idea of pleasure with the notion of a meal eaten anywhere but under a roof" (p. 4).

In London, the so-called Picnic Society (1802) was a short-lived elite social club organized for entertainment. But a decade later "picnic" is used only in the sense of a meal eaten outdoors. Occasionally, it was used in the sense of an anthology, as in Charles Dickens's The Pic-Nic Papers, by Various Hands (1841), or as a term of disapprobation as in a person accused of picnickery and nicknackery, or being frivolous.

Germans use picnick in the sense of holding a meeting, as in the phrase ein Picknick halten. The verb is picknicken, which literally means holding a picnic as you would hold a meeting or a party. Italians use scampagnata (holiday in the country), or lolazione sull'erba (luncheon on the grass). Spaniards use comida al aire libre (luncheon on the grass), or comida campestre (eat in the country). Spanish dictionaries seem unaware that Ménage thinks the word may be of Spanish origin. Koreans use both the Chinese so pong (a little meal in the country) and "picnic." Their favorite picnic time occurs when the cherry trees are in bloom. The Japanese have a long history of depicting meals taken outdoors, often celebrating hanami, the cherry blossom season, or another seasonal event. In 1862, "picnic" was translated as shokuji (meal), and in the twentieth century, the Japanese adopted the loanword pikunikku.

Food Writers on Picnics

Cookbooks are excellent resources for picnic menus and recollections. Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin delights in the hunt assembly ("Halts of a Shooting-Party"), which he does not call a picnic: "At the appointed hour we see arrive light carriages and prancing horses, loaded with the fair, all feathers and flowers. . . . Seated on the green turf they eat, the corks fly; they gossip, laugh, and are merry in perfect freedom, for the universe is their drawing-room, and the sun their lamp" (Physiologie du goût, pp. 152153). Mrs. Isabella Beeton's recommendations for a picnic for forty persons are for formal entertaining carried outdoors in some location where an elaborate feast could be organized and served by servants.

Elizabeth David, a known lover of picnics, says that

Picnic addicts seem to be roughly divided between those who frankly make elaborate preparations and leave nothing to chance, and those others whose organization is no less complicated but who are more deceitful and pretend that everything will be obtained on the spot and cooked over a woodcutter's fire conveniently at hand (Summer Cooking, p. 208).

James Beard suggests that a picnic requires that you travel somewhere to eat. He is certain that

Wherever it is done, picnicking can be one of the supreme pleasures of outdoor life. At its most elegant, it calls for the accompaniment of the best linens and crystal and china; at its simplest it needs only a bottle of wine and items purchased from the local delicatessen as one passes through town. I recall a recent picnic in France where we bought rilletes de Tours (in Tours), and elsewhere some excellent salade museau, good bread, ripe tomatoes and cheese. A bottle of local wine and glasses and plates from the Monoprix helped to make this picnic in a heather field near Le Mans a particularly memorable one (Menus for Entertaining, p. 272).

Claudia Roden, aficionado of picnics and outdoor eating, describes English picnics, Revival Week picnics, a Middle Eastern Affair, a Japanese Picnic, and a Picnic in the Himalayas. Roden confesses,

The pleasures of outdoor food are those that nature has to offer, as ephemeral as they are intense. A bird will sing his song and fly away, leaves will flutter and jostle the sunlight for a brief secondsky, flowers, and scents have each their small parts to play in the perfect happiness of those enchanted moments. They serve, as Jean Jacques Rousseau said, to "liberate the soul" (Everything Tastes Better Outdoors, p. 4).

See also Beard, James ; Beeton, Isabella Mary ; Brillat-Savarin, Anthelme .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Battiscombe, Georgina. English Picnics. London: Harvill Press, 1949.

Beard, James. Menus for Entertaining [1965]. New York: Marlowe and Company, 1985.

Brillat-Savarin, Jean Anthelme. "Meditation XV," Physiologie du gout [The Physiology of Taste: Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy] [1825]. Translated by Charles Monselet. New York: Liveright, 1948.

Craigie, Carter W. "The Vocabulary of the Picnic." MidWestern Language and Folklore Newsletter, 1978: 26.

Crookenden, Kate, Caroline Worlledge, and Margaret Willes, compilers. The National Trust Book of Picnics. London: The National Trust, 1988.

Cunningham, Marion, ed. The Fanny Farmer Cookbook. 13th edition. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

David, Elizabeth. Summer Cooking [1955]. London and New York: Penguin Books, 1965.

Eyre, Karen, and Mirielle Galinou. Picnic. London. Museum of London, 1988.

Hemingway, Joan, and Connie Maricich. The Picnic Gourmet. New York: Random House, 1977.

Hern, Mary Ellen. "Picnicking in the Northeastern United States 18401900," Winterthur Portfolio, 24 (23) 1989: 139152.

Roden, Claudia. Everything Tastes Better Outdoors. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.

Walter Levy


An Egyptian Picnic

Claudia Roden's "A Middle Eastern Affair" in Everything Tastes Better Outdoors (1985) tells that her favorite picnic spot was in the dunes of Agami in Alexandria, where she was raised as a child. She explains that in the Middle East eating out is a way of life: "There are even official occasions for picnic. Among these are the mulids, when people flock to the principal scenes of religious festivals, public gardens, shrines, tombs of saints, and burial grounds. Thousands gather sometimes for days and nights, sleeping under tents . . . . The most important of the national picnics in Egypt is not a religious occasion. It is Shem en Nessem, which celebrates the arrival of spring. Town dwellers go out in the country or in boats, generally northward, eating out in fields or on the riverbank, smelling the air, which is thought to be particularly beneficial on the day" (pp. 167168). Picnic foods include blehat samak (Fish rissoles), qras samak (Arab fish cake with burghul,) brains Moroccan style, sanbusak (pies filled with meat and pine nuts), meat ajja (an omelet) kukye gusht (an Iranian omelet) kibbeh naye (raw lamb and cracked wheat paste), bazargan (burghul salad), tabbouleh (cracked wheat salad), stuffed vegetables, stuffed onion, leeks, zucchini, lemon chicken, lahma bil karaz (meatballs with cherries), salq bi loubia (spinach with black-eyed beans), lentil tomato salad, and loubia bi zeit (green beans in olive oil).


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picnic

picnic, social gathering at which each participant generally brings food to be shared. The Picnic Society was formed in London early in the 19th cent. by a group of fashionable people for purposes of entertainment. Each member was expected to provide a share of the entertainment and of the refreshments, and this idea of mutual sharing or cooperation was fundamental to the original significance of the picnic. Later the word took on the additional meaning of an outdoor pleasure party. The word as now used includes almost every type of informal, outdoor meal or festivity, such as clambake, barbecue, or fish fry. The custom of cooperative dining is ancient; Greek men held symposia where the guests ate and discussed important matters.

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"picnic." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"picnic." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/picnic

picnic

pic·nic / ˈpikˌnik/ • n. an outing or occasion that involves taking a packed meal to be eaten outdoors. ∎  a meal eaten outdoors on such an occasion. • v. (-nicked , -nick·ing ) [intr.] have or take part in a picnic. PHRASES: no picnic inf. used of something difficult or unpleasant: chemotherapy is no picnic.DERIVATIVES: pic·nick·er n.

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picnic

picnic (orig.) social entertainment in which each person contributed a share of the food; (now) outdoor pleasure party with a repast. XVIII. — F. piquenique, app. f. piquer PICK2 + nique (cf. faire la nique à mock, show scorn of).

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picnic

picnicaldermanic, botanic, Brahmanic, Britannic, epiphanic, galvanic, Germanic, Hispanic, interoceanic, Koranic, manganic, manic, mechanic, messianic, oceanic, organic, panic, Puranic, Romanic, satanic, shamanic, talismanic, titanic, transoceanic, tympanic, volcanic •anthropogenic, arsenic, autogenic, callisthenic (US calisthenic), carcinogenic, cariogenic, cryogenic, erotogenic, eugenic, fennec, hallucinogenic, Hellenic, hypo-allergenic, photogenic, pyrogenic, radiogenic, schizophrenic, telegenic •polytechnic, pyrotechnic, technic •Chetnik •ethnic, multi-ethnic •Selznick •hygienic, scenic •peacenik • beatnik •actinic, clinic, cynic, Finnic, Jacobinic, rabbinic •picnic, pyknic •hymnic • Iznik • Dominic •anachronic, animatronic, bionic, Brythonic, bubonic, Byronic, canonic, carbonic, catatonic, chalcedonic, chronic, colonic, conic, cyclonic, daemonic, demonic, diatonic, draconic, electronic, embryonic, euphonic, harmonic, hegemonic, histrionic, homophonic, hypersonic, iconic, ionic, ironic, isotonic, laconic, macaronic, Masonic, Miltonic, mnemonic, monotonic, moronic, Napoleonic, philharmonic, phonic, Platonic, Plutonic, polyphonic, quadraphonic, sardonic, saxophonic, siphonic, Slavonic, sonic, stereophonic, subsonic, subtonic, symphonic, tectonic, Teutonic, thermionic, tonic, transonic, ultrasonic •Dubrovnik •Munich, Punic, runic, tunic •refusenik • nudnik • kibbutznik •sputnik • Metternich

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