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The Boat Race

The Boat Race

A tradition which dates back 194 years, takes place this weekend – the Oxford V Cambridge boat race and as a result, the banks of the Thames will be filled with picnics. So, this week, we are looking at the secrets of a successful picnic and how to celebrate the annual boat race, even if you don’t want to watch it.

Everything tastes better outdoors,” according to the author Claudia Roden, who wrote ‘Picnics: And Other Outdoor Feasts.’ There is something about fresh air and the liberating effect of nature which sharpens the appetite and heightens the quality and intensity of sensations.

Despite our unpredictable weather – the British have made the picnic their own. The history of the English picnic goes back as far as the Middle Ages when it involved taking food to huntsmen on horseback. The pork pie and the Cornish pasty have similar origins; they were designed to be complete meals eaten away from home.

The word itself is French and thought to date to 1692 from the book ‘Origines de la Langue Française’ which features “pique-nique” to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. It is believed that the concept of a picnic held the connotation of a meal involving everyone contributing something. It wasn’t until much later, that it meant taking food outdoors.

But the origin of the word itself, tells us much about the spirit of the event. Whatever you are eating and wherever you are doing it – a good picnic is about the experience of doing something together – sharing food, setting up a blanket, carrying the drinks cooler and all the other things you need to set up your al fresco feast.

The relatively recent resurgence in the popularity of record players has even meant modern picnic goers sometimes nod to days of old and bring a battery operated one with an integrated speaker.

In Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, she created lavish picnic menus that included: “a joint of cold roast beef, a joint of cold boiled beef, 2 ribs of lamb, 2 shoulders of lamb, 4 roast fowls, 2 roast ducks, 1 ham, 1 tongue, 2 veal and ham pies, 2 pigeon pies, 6 medium sized lobsters, 1 piece of collared calves head.”

We can certainly help put together as grand a feat as that – but you might want to start with some of these ideas:


At Lidgates, we have a wonderful Deli range that can help create a picnic with none of the hard work. One famous culinary picnic delight is SCOTCH EGGS, famously invented by Fortnum's in 1738.



PARMA HAM is one of the best hams in the world, imported from Italy and branded with the authentic logo. Beautifully sliced it is a staple of any picnic.




Our home cooked butter basted ROAST TURKEY BREAST is another picnic treat.



A picnic wouldn't be complete without our very own Lidgate PASTY - so good The Independent on Sunday said: “The Lidgate's Pasty is a triumph, using hand cut beef, swedes, potatoes, salt and pepper. Properly crimped rich pastry on the top. The result is fat, juicy, solid, sweet and lightly peppered"

And of course you should try our amazing selection of cheeses

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