If you’ve ever read Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows or at least are quite the foodie, you’ll be familiar with Rat’s picnic with Mole.
‘Hold hard a minute, then!’ said the Rat. He looped the painter through a ring in his landing-stage, climbed up into his hole above, and after a short interval reappeared staggering under a fat, wicker luncheon-basket.
‘Shove that under your feet,’ he observed to the Mole, as he passed it down into the boat. Then he untied the painter and took the sculls again.
‘What’s inside it?’ asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity.
‘There’s cold chicken inside it,’ replied the Rat briefly; ‘coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscress
‘O stop, stop,’ cried the Mole in ecstacies: ‘This is too much!’
‘Do you really think so?’ enquired the Rat seriously. ‘It’s only what I always take on these little excursions; and the other animals are always telling me that I’m a mean beast and cut it VERY fine!’
Well, let me tell you – Uyen and Simon of Fernandez and Leluu can put together a picnic that trounces Rat’s picnic or heck, any picnic I’ve ever managed to throw together. Case in point, a recent picnic, sponsored by Ryvita, held at the Henley Royal Regatta at Henley-on-Thames, and to which I was invited. I hadn’t realised that these races were such a big deal in the rowing world but I was keen to see what it was all about. Well, I’d say half the people there were about the rowing and the other half were just keen to dress up and be seen. It’s not exactly my scene but I’m glad I had the chance to experience it.
Back to the picnic – this is what’s it’s all about, right?! We made our way through the crowds and met at the Ryvita stand, Ryvita being the sponsors of our picnic, and a massive spread was laid out. In Rat style, the food included:
Pork rillettes, pork and peppercorn pate, sweet French ham, Spanish serrano ham, Italian salami, a sadly neglected salad of leafy greens, rocket, beautiful yellow and red cherry tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and basil, a humongous tubful of the best Russian salad, …
… olives, roasted red peppers, a giant mound of crispy fresh samphire, a large plateful of freshly shucked oysters (a lot of the seafood was from fin and flounder), a long side of serious smoked salmon (except this, this was from Donald Russell, the butchers!), gorgeous cubes of tuna sashimi with a spring onion, wasabi and soy dressing (as served at their supper club as part of their style of fish and chips), …
… the most gigantic prawns ever, lemons, about 10 types of cheeses (including a log of goat’s cheese, manchego, gorgonzola, cream cheeses), creamy butter, membrillo, figs in a mustard sauce, baguettes, rosemary bread, more Ryvita than you can imagine (a variety of their classic crispbreads and their new flatter, crisper thins), …
… strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, flat peaches, plums, grapes, pomegranates, orange flower and lemon curd cupcakes (courtesy of VioletsCurd), strawberry and blueberry trifle (Uyen put them together with cake she baked herself and fruits soaked in Cointreau), pears poached in Champagne and vanilla (Simon’s recipe – they were amazing), stacks of bottled water, cold bottles of Luscombe fizzy drinks (lemon, orange and elderflower), and lashings of Laurent Perrier champagne.
Apparently, each time something else was pulled out, there were gasps of disbelief from the surrounding picnickers. I was certainly in disbelief the entire time! Everything was served in proper glasses, on proper crockery, and with proper cutlery (we ate off summery Cornishware plates) which is seriously hardcore when it comes to picnicking! The food too was hardly supermarket fare – most of it was sourced from markets or online or cooked at home. It certainly felt a bit odd sitting there surrounded by all this food while people would stop and point and take photos with their mobiles.
The company was equally excellent with fellow guests The London Foodie, Meemalee’s Kitchen, Feast on Scraps, Greedy Diva and VioletsCurd of the Hatcham Supper Club and we were joined by both Fernandez and Leluu and Wild Card, representing Ryvita. Wherever possible, I’ve linked to their posts about the picnic.
It was an altogether fabulous time in the sun with us all lazily lunching for the whole afternoon. When we’d finally packed up after the feast and walked over to the car to put it away, a security guard recognised us and commented, “You’re the ones with the mental picnic over there!” Yes, it was certainly an epic picnic.