Which al fresco fave is king of the cool bag? Warning: contains carbs
The sun is out, and the race to the nearest patch of grass is on. But what snacks to pack for picnic supremacy?
There's a lot to consider: portability, ease of consumption in high winds, mess factor. Will you need wet wipes? What tastes great indoors might not stand up to testing conditions out in the wild. And while fancy recipes and gourmet deli selections are all well and good, we know they can't really compete with the classics: pastry, cheese, meat and something sweet to melt on your T-shirt for afters.
Here is our definitive countdown of picnic classics. Argue if you like – we've gone out for lunch.
8. Egg and cress sandwiches
Picnics are really the only time you can eat an egg sandwich in public without fear of legal action, so nothing feels better than tucking into a hard-boiled butty with the open air whooshing around you. Embrace nature’s fumigator.
Then add cress – because the meta-pleasure of eating something that looks like grass while actually sitting on grass cannot be underestimated.
7. Potato salad
There’s nothing like a good potato salad for bulking out a picnic to the point where you probably definitely need to take a nap beneath a tree.
But sadly all that mayonnaisey goodness is usually overridden by the panic that it’ll turn to mayonnaisey badness in the sun. So for any picnic without an industrial cool bag (or further than 100m from your house), a potato salad can become more burden than pleasure. Go olive oil or go home.
6. Sausage rolls
Eternally tasty and so traditional they’re virtually wearing a morris dancing outfit and singing Greensleeves: a picnic without sausage rolls is basically just a meeting without any chairs.
Sausage rolls come with a picnic warning though, and it is this: just like your flaky friend who cancels all the time, proper flaky pastry will absent itself at the first hint of gusty weather. Which means that in messy terms, the best place to eat them is either a picnic or standing over the sink.
5. Posh crisps
Posh crisps are the yardstick of elegant al fresco eating; the magic key that turns your gathering from "people eating food while sat on the ground" to a proper, certified picnic.
They’re in at number five because, let’s be honest, it’s hard to get too excited about something that is mainly just a vehicle for carrying cheese and onion dip from the tub to your mouth. But as thick cut, hand-cooked chips tend to have much more structural integrity than the flimsy crisps of yore, we’re proud to welcome them into the picnic hall of fame. Well done, you swanky so-and-sos.
4. Mini bites
There’s a special place in our hearts for food that comes in a plastic tub. This is especially true in the summer, when you can pretty much pretend your bucket of tiny flapjacks is necessary outdoor equipment, like sun cream and a swingball set.
Plus, the mix-and-match possibilities of mini bites are so exciting. What will you try next – rocky road with millionaire’s shortbread? Tiny cookie sandwiches with a cornflake cluster in the middle? Chocolate mini roll dunked in taramasalata? They may be small, but their potential is huge.
3. Mini chipolatas
Keep your juicy Cumberlands, your wild boar bangers and your air-cured chorizo. Just one sausage rules the Great British picnic, and it’s small, cold, and slightly shrivelled like a witch’s finger.
The phrase "cocktail sausage" is misleading these days as they only really pop up on occasions when you’re going to be drinking fizzy pop from a plastic cup (see also: children’s birthday parties, wakes etc). But for what they lack in glamour, mini chipolatas make up for in taste. Not convinced? Try telling us that again in five minutes when you’ve eaten 32 of them.
2. Cheese straws
In our hallowed runner-up spot it’s the cheese straw – or "pastry crudité" if you prefer.
Because most people haven’t found a way of working these delicately greasy carb sticks into their everyday diets, cheese straws have retained a special allure that makes them perfect for whipping out at picnics. Probably to applause.
1. Scotch eggs
Whether you think of it as a meatball with some egg in the middle, or an egg with a handy carry-case made of sausage, there is no denying that scotch eggs are really working overtime in the snack department. Carrying themselves with solid dignity even in the most precarious of conditions, these hearty breadcrumbed boulders will sustain you whether you’re picnicking out at sea, halfway up a mountain, or just on the 18:20 from Paddington.
These days there are also plenty of gluten-free, pork-free and meat-free versions around, so (nearly) everyone can have their fill. Well done, Scotland! You did it with the telephone, you did it with TV (they invented both, FYI), and now you’ve done it with picnic food too. All hail the scotch egg.