A Brief History of the Picnic

Picnics are a warm-weather classic. Most people picture gingham blankets and hand-woven baskets in the ideal picnic situation, but where did the picnic even come from? Who decided potato salad was a thing?

The origin of picnics track back to the Renaissance. The upper class would go on hunting outings and bring food with them on which they would feast outdoors. In literature from the same time period, Robin Hood and his men dining on simple breads and ales under trees served as a juxtaposition to these elaborate, outdoor dining events.

From there, the Victorian Era brought along a rise in the popularity of the picnic as they became a common social event for the upper echelon of Victorian England society. According to NPR, a popular guidebook for entertaining at the time called Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, named tables, linens, crystals and servants as essentials for a proper picnic.

Times have certainly changed. Gone are the linens and crystal, replaced with contemporary picnic classics like fried chicken, burgers and hot dogs. Today, picnics are held as school events, teambuilding activities or even just as an outing among friends. While the food served may never truly venture away from the hearty grill favorites, more health-conscious picnic-goers have more options than ever before. Chicken and vegetable skewers or grilled fish have become more popular picnic options and simple substitutions like turkey burgers, chicken sausage, whole wheat buns or even lettuce wraps can be great choices so you can enjoy a picnic without thinking about where those calories are going to sit.

Watermelon is a staple of any picnic event and is a great option just as is, but if you’ve never tried a watermelon and feta salad, now is the time to start. You could even throw the watermelon on the grill! Instead of sugary lemonade, try an agua fresca or a fruit infused water as a refreshing beverage.

Now that you have some background on where the picnic came from and a few pointers on throwing your own, be our guest at the picnic event of the semester — Picnic on the Patio on April 28th at Bell Tower Place from 11am-2pm!


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