Picnics and 'Pickynickers'

 

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Introducing a Spanish student to an Irish summer picnic – it’s not easy to see the rain in the photo.

So far this summer in Ireland we’ve managed to get out and about and have a few picnics although it has been a little tricky dodging the rain showers. The weather lads I think must have a slightly sadistic streak in that more than once they have set the Irish population up for mass disappointment by predicting lovely temperatures and sunshine for the following day. We continue to believe them with hopeful hearts but the criticism is merciless. Please don’t encourage your children to become weather forecasters when they grow up. Such cruelty, you’d need a hide as tough as a hippo to endure the abuse.

Anyway this is not a moan about the weather post but rather a sweetness and light chat about how to make the best out of picnicking with your (sometimes?) picky kids. Picnics for the Famous Five were always glorious and filled with the tastiest sounding delights. My Fearless Four have not taken to plum cake though and ginger pop is hard to come by, in fact glass bottles are not very sensible for little people. Basically the romance and the reality when it comes to eating outdoors can be worlds apart but I think there are a few ideas that help bring the two a little more inline with one another so that your summer memories are rosy-golden.

As with anything in life, time is money when it comes to packing food for a picnic. Here are three tried and trusted suggestions, ranked in order of cost and in converse order to the time it takes to prepare:

  1. This to my mind is the luxury picnic as I bought it all hurriedly en-route but even so it worked out at less than €2 per person (from a low-cost supermarket) for six of us. I did bring a knife for spreading the filling for the rolls.
    – 12 Rolls
    – Sliced ham
    – Coleslaw with cheese
    – Breadsticks
    – Caramelised onion hummus
    – Clementines
    – Box of mini gingerbread men
    – Packet of pink wafer biscuits (most adults would hate these but my kids love them)
  2. This is my children’s favourite picnic because there are lots of small things to choose from and the individually wrapped items are a special treat. This would need a small bit of home prep. Sandwiches are obviously way too boring and do tend to get a bit to sandy and widgy on the beach.
    – Crackers
    – Carrot sticks
    – Tub of cream cheese and
    – Tub of hummus (both for dipping the top two items into)
    – Sliced small rectangles of cheddar
    – Apples (really lovely with the cheese)
    – Individual packets of crisps
    – Biscuit bars also individually wrapped
  3. This third option is really just a picnic component but a versatile one. It would require the most amount of preparation beforehand but baking savoury muffins are super quick and a clever way of disguising foods your kids won’t normally eat. I have a basic mix recipe to which one can add any combination of ingredients. Some favourite flavours include:
    – Cheddar cheese and cayenne pepper
    – Chorizo, paprika and red pepper (capsicum)
    – Courgette, parmesan and sesame seed
    – Chicken, fresh herbs and sweetcornThe basic mix is as simple as ABC:

a) In one bowl sift 280g/10oz self raising flour (OR plain flour and 1 tbsp baking powder) with 1/8 tsp salt. For sweet muffins add about 100g/4oz sugar.

b) In a jug measure 250mls/9 fl oz  milk (OR buttermilk, yoghurt etc), with a fork beat in two eggs and 6 tbsp oil (OR melted butter).

c) VERY gently (too much mixing makes them heavy) fold the liquid into the flour mixture plus a generous cup of your fillings and spoon into a 12 hole muffin pan. Bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
This morning’s double batch of banana and walnut wholemeal muffins.

A few handy hints:

Pack the fruit last, i.e. at the top of your basket/hamper as small bruises seem to cause great offence. (We currently have 9 half black bananas in the fridge waiting to be converted into banana bread).
Unless you want the picnic table to turn into a grab-what-you-want buffet, don’t unpack all the food straight away; the picnic takes on a much more leisurely pace. I’m a little bit of a control-freak mother and would rather my kids didn’t eat all the treats first.
Chocolate is the sublime conclusion to a picnic except on sunny days. If you like sucking it out of the wrapper, seeing it all over your lovely children’s faces, hands, hair and clothing, and your car upholstery, you’ll be fine. Otherwise bring an abundance of baby wipes!
I try to ensure each child has their own bottle of water and they are mostly responsible for carrying it. I prefer not to bring juice as they tend to drink it too quickly, it dulls their appetite which means they don’t eat when you do and then are hungry when the picnic is eaten and you are driving home, toilet trips become more frequent, it’s sticky when it spills and not so handy for rinsing sandy apples or chocolatey hands.
We need a fairly large picnic rug with a relatively waterproof lining so I sewed a nylon fabric shower curtain to the underside of a cotton double bed spread. It is light and small to carry and easily fits in the washing machine.


Here are our 20 Best Picnic Sites in Wexford:

I surveyed my children as to their favourite places to picnic in Wexford and these are their top five destinations: 1. Mount Leinster, 2. Hook Head, 3. Ravens Wood, 4. J.F.K. Arboretum and 5. St. Mullins. Other lovely spots include 6. Ballinesker beach, 7. Carne beach, 8. St Helen’s beach, 9. Rosslare Strand, 10. the South slobs, 11. the Wildfowl Reserve, 12. Baginbun Bay, 13. Duncannon, 14. Kilmore Quay, 15. Carrigbyrne Hill, 16. Edenvale, 17. Johnstown Castle, 18. Tintern Abbey, 19. Wells House and 20. Altamont Gardens. I’m sure I’ve missed loads of lovely spots so feel free to add your suggestions.

You may guess which of the pictures below were taken in Wexford 😀

 

4 thoughts on “Picnics and 'Pickynickers'”

  1. When I was a kid my Dad managed to blag a course for work at Gleneagles. We went too. They provided picnics which even included whiskey for the kids. We, needless to say, weren’t allowed it!

    I actually don’t think I’be had a picnic since. We always seem to want to burn (cook) the food outside before eating outside! Might be something to try if the weather picks up.

    1. Hahaha whiskey for the kids not surprising you’ve been put off, however, if you can picnic in Scotland you should be able to picnic anywhere! Hope you find time for one this summer. I think there’s a joy about about eating outdoors which is hard to define.

  2. The Famous Five! Ahhhh… just took a little trip down memory lane. I blame Enid Blyton for the fact that in my earliest attempts at writing children’s books, the characters paused to eat every chapter or so. Granted, I was 12 at the time, but still…

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