What’s New plus… Five of the Worst Literary Picnics…

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London cure smoked salmon

H Forman & Son, London’s now sole remaining family-owned artisan smokehouse, has been operating since 1905. This year its London Cure Smoked Salmon has been awarded PGI status – the European protected geographical indication that celebrates traditional regional foods (other PGIs include Gorgonzola in Italy and Champagne in France). London Cure Smoked Salmon, made with Scottish salmon, oak smoke and salt, must be produced in the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Hackney or  Newham.

Formans.co.uk

Wine by post

Membership to Decanting Club now includes a weekly delivery of wine – a letterbox-sized pouch containing 150ml of the Club’s wine of the week. In Decanting terms, this means, a wine that is made ‘from unusual grape varieties in less-famous regions by smaller producers’. Ie, one unlikely to be found in a supermarket.  If you like your postal wine, you can then order further bottles through the club.

Membership from £10 a month. For details visit decanting.club/wine/

Buttertubs

Named after the fluted limestone pot holes in the Dales five miles from the Wensleydale Creamery at Hawes, Buttertubs is the Creamery’s latest cheese. Handmade, creamy, lemon-scented. It’s already won Gold at the British Cheese Awards

Buttertubs cheese, RSP from £2.75/200g available at the Wensleydale Creamery Visitor Centre, or visit wensleydale.co.uk


3348436861_95664ea3c9_bFive of the worst literary picnics… and one that gets it right

Very Good Jeeves

A terrific cold collation, made perfect by the addition of  ‘a couple of bottles of Bollinger’, appears in Very Good Jeeves by P G Wodehouse  – with a terrible warning about  the perils of picnics. ‘I met a fellow the other day who told me he unpacked his basket and found the champagne had burst and together with the salad dressing had soaked into the ham, which in turn had got mixed up with the gorgonzola cheese forming a kind of paste… Oh, he ate the mixture but he said he could taste it even now.’

Cider With Rosie

In his memoir, Laurie Lee describes the fuss and effort that went into family picnics in the Gloucestershire countryside. ‘Mother’s picnics were planned on a tribal scale, with huge preparations beforehand. There were sliced cucumbers and pots of paste, radishes, pepper and salt, cakes and buns and macaroons, soup plates of bread and butter, jam, treacle, jugs of milk and several fresh-made jellies.’  but by the time, the picnic spot has been reached, it’s all gone horribly  wrong…  ‘The milk turned sour, the butter fried on the bread, cake crumbs got stuck to the cucumber, wasps seized the treacle, the kettle wouldn’t boil and we ended by drinking the jellies.’

The Picnic

A short story by Gerald Durrell (My Family And Other Animals) in which he describes a trip to Lulworth Cove in the family Rolls-Royce. It is supposed to be a homecoming party for Gerald’s pretentious older brother Larry, but Larry  has been living on the Continent, and  remembers their English childhood picnics with horror: ‘All the thrill of ants and sand in the food, trying to light a fire with damp wood, the howling gales, the light snowfall just as you are munching your first cucumber sandwich.’ Unwisely, the family prevails and they set off to Lulworth Cove. There the beach reeks of mouldering seaweed, chunks of cliff crash on to the shingle just yards from their heads, they mistake a rotting dead horse for a bench and a sudden storm drenches them in icy rain.

Emma

The catastrophic trip to Box Hill in Surrey proves that Jane Austen knew that picnics are accidents waiting to happen. The  outing illustrates the difficulty of getting decent conversation going in the hit-and-miss situation of a picnic. Frank Churchill sets himself up as a tiresome quiz master insisting everyone perform; Emma humiliates Mrs Bates for being a bore and is mortified when she is later told off by Mr Knightley. The atmosphere is  one of lassitude. There is a ‘want of spirits, a want of union, which could not be got over’. Confidences are betrayed, enemies made and hearts broken.

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Perhaps the worst picnic ever invented – this terrifying Australian thriller features a school trip set in 1900. Hanging Rock, bafflingly chosen by the teachers as the perfect picnic spot, is a malevolent location known for its ‘poisonous ants’. Soon the Rock has lived up to its reputation by dispatching three schoolgirls into the unknown. The picnic itself is quite good, however: a zinc-lined wicker basket in the shade of a gum tree keeps milk and lemonade ‘deliciously cool’. There is chicken pie, a handsome, heart-shaped cake (it is Valentine’s Day) and, more resistibly, ‘tepid bananas.’

… and one that gets it right

The Wind in the Willows

Kenneth Grahame describes one of literature’s picnic successes. ‘What’s inside it?’ Mole asks, eyeing a fat wicker luncheon basket. ‘There’s cold chicken inside it,’ replies the Rat briefly; ‘coldtonguecoldham­cold beefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscress sandwichespottedmeatgingerbeer lemonadesodawater… ‘ Enough to give any picnicker indigestion. But Mole is intoxicated by the provisions and by Rat’s watery lifestyle. There is a charming EH Shepard illustration of Mole with his velvety snout deep in the basket. He gasps ‘O my! O my! O my!’ at the mysterious parcels, each containing a new revelation’