19 August 2009


Picnics by Viola Johnstone is from a series of small, British cookbooks published in the late 50’s and early 60’s. I adore this series, but frankly, many of the recipes are so vague, you need to know how to cook in order to accomplish the recipe. Then some are really straightforward such as the section on sandwiches. It lists 23 types of sandwiches, including eggs mashed with mayonnaise, chicken mashed with mayonnaise, sardines mashed with Worcester, crab meat mashed with Worcester and on and on.

There are many recipes that include aspic, which has a short shelf life in the out of doors! Unless you are traveling with a refrigerator, or the picnic is right out the kitchen door, I can’t imagine making a lot of aspics for a picnic.

Here is a simple salad that even the most unaccomplished cook could pull off -- and be a hit.

French Dressing

1 part of wine vinegar or lemon juice, 3 parts of olive oil, dry mustard, salt and pepper.

A basic French dressing in composed of the above ingredients. Some people advocate the addition of a little sugar, but this is not included in a correct and traditional French dressing.
Put the mustard, salt and pepper into a bowl and stir in the vinegar or lemon juice. Add the olive oil and mix well. Transfer to a jar with a top which will screw on tightly.
Travel the dressing—which will prove invaluable at almost every picnic –in the jar, and shake it well before pouring on any salad.

Salad of Baby Broad Beans

This is a delicate salad when broad beans are young and just in season –but for salad purposes they must be fresh and neither frozen of tinned.
Shell the beans and cook for a few minutes—according to age and size—in boiling salted water. Drain, cool and transfer to a container. When required serve tossed in a little French dressing which has been traveled in a screw-top jar.

I love picnic cookbooks, but I have yet to find one that makes me all excited. Perhaps because I am more interested in how to package the food and not what to make. Most anything becomes “picnic” food when you walk it out the door.

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