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Garden picnic

By Jo Leevers

It’s a simple fact that fresh, summer-time food tastes better outdoors. A slice of gloriously peppery frittata. Squares of crumbly lemon shortbread. Or Kalamata olives and a chilled tipple, all enjoyed while sitting on a blanket beneath clear blue skies.

Except, as anyone who has lugged a picnic basket ‘just that little bit further’ in search of the elusively perfect spot knows, that’s not quite the full story. Unpacking sadly misshapen sandwiches. Grappling with bendy forks, floppy paper plates and drinking warm wine from paper cups. Yes, it’s all part of it and yes, there’s a certain charm, but sometimes it doesn’t quite feel like the perfect picnic that we had in mind. If you’ve gone to the trouble of making delicious food, you need to honour your spread with proper plates, glasses that you can chink and cutlery that feels reassuringly solid and does the job properly.

The answer, we’ve decided, is to prepare a moveable feast and to not roam very far at all. Your back garden – or your favourite patch in a nearby field – will serve you well and means little legs needn’t traipse for very long. You can still enjoy all that’s lovely about being outdoors, except you’ll also have all the benefits of being close to home. Your food will travel well and can be served just as you intended. Your elderflower, Chablis or deliciously sharp lemonade will remain chilled to perfection.

To cushion your glasses and plates for a short trip out, create a sleeping bag with linen napkins. Devote one sturdy-handled picnic basket to food and drink, and use a second for crockery and cutlery. A couple of picnic rugs can be looped over an arm. And because you’re not travelling too far, you can add further comfort to your setting with plump cushions and some soft throws. As the sun starts to dip down, these will be doubly useful, allowing everyone to linger outdoors a little longer. And so that it remains feeling definitely picnic-y, wrap your sandwiches in parchment paper, present dressings in jam jars, and carry out ice cubes in a family-sized Thermos flask.

When everything goes smoothly, a picnic can almost feel like a mini-holiday. So keep the journey simple. No map-reading required. 

Jo Leevers  writes for some of the UK’s most acclaimed lifestyle magazines and national newspapers, from The Telegraph to Homes & Antiques.