People have been eating outdoors for literally ages of course, but the notion of "picnics" became popular during the Victorian era. During Medieval times, eating a feast outdoors was usually part of a hunting party. Nobles would host elaborate feasts of game, roasts, pies etc. for those involved in the hunt. In the 18th century the idea of hosting a more informal feast outdoors for your guests, minus the hunt, began to become a popular activity. It really took off during the 19th century, with even Quern Victoria herself partaking in such excursions.
Her Majesty picnicking with the royal family.
As much as it was considered a more informal occasion, food was still expected to be sumptuous. Dishes like lobster, and chicken, with sauces and sides, and desserts like tarts and trifles were acceptable picnic fare. Champagne was also included, kept cold it was advised, by wrapping the bottles in newspaper.
Servants would sometimes be sent ahead with the dishes, a small kerosine burner for heating up tea, and cutlery (eating with your fingers was considered improper). If there were no servants for the outing, then the gentlemen were expected to wait on the ladies and entertain them after the meal with any musical talents they had.
Victorian picnic set
After dining, games like blind man's bluff, charades or even tag, were played, or people wondered off in pairs or groups to explore the grounds. Usually around 5pm tea was served, before setting off for home.
As per usual during the 19th century, there were still lots of rules for polite and appropriate social behavior while picnicking.
When choosing a location it must be scenic but not too dramatic (like a cliff or dark forest) as it might excite or frighten the delicate ladies. There must also be ample shade for them, so as not to cause them discomfort in the sun. A light breeze was also considered ideal to keep the women comfortable (apparently we are easily made uncomfortable, but with several layers of petticoats, tight corseting and a possible bustle in summer weather, who wouldn't be?).
Men were not allowed to sit down on the ground near a lady, unless invited to do so. Men and women were also not allowed to wander off alone for too long either, or the lady would not be invited back on further picnics. Personally it all sounds a bit ridiculous to me, and who knows how long "too long" was - an hour? 20 minutes? 10? Before one was branded a "picnic tart".
I will have no such silly rules at my picnic. Just good food, friends, and some dressing up. What would you suggest for a gothic/steampunk picnic?
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone