Simple sarmies simply won't do: picnics are an elaborate affair abroad

Anthony Peregrine, Annie Bennett and Lee Marshall recall some of the picnic extravaganzas they've witnessed in France, Spain and Italy

09 September 2018 - 00:00 By ANTHONY PEREGRINE, Annie Bennett and Lee Marshall

Édouard Manet's 1863 Déjeuner Sur l'Herbe is, without argument, the most famous picnic picture ever painted. You'll maybe recall it, notably the foreground in which a naked woman sits on the forest floor besides two over-dressed dandies.
This in no way tallies with my experience of French picnics - which, while lacking nudity, are horns of abundance. Down by the Vidourle River where we often meet friends, three choices of drink (pastis, rosé, beer) plus saucisson and radish-with-dips are aperitif minima.
Further courses require strong men to carry the cooler-boxes - melon, chicken, more charcuterie, baguettes, quiches, rice and pasta salads, as much wine as you can fit into a Peugeot, three sorts of cheese, fruit salad and lemon tart.
French picnics are not, in short, about eating skimpily- they're about carting French gastronomy out of doors. - Anthony Peregrine
Sunday is picnic day in Spain, when friends and families congregate on beaches and in the countryside.
On Canyamel beach in the northeast of Mallorca on a Sunday in mid-July, I witnessed the Spanish picnic extravaganza in full swing. In the shade of pine trees at the quieter end of the beach, half a dozen groups were tucking into their lunch. Folding tables with checked tablecloths were piled high with Tupperware boxes and surrounded by baskets and cooler-boxes.
One family was eating squares of coca de trampó - a thin, pizza-like base topped with finely chopped tomatoes, peppers and onions, while the people next to them were pouring gazpacho from flasks and scoffing wedges of tortilla omelette and rolls stuffed with squashy sobrassada sausage. A couple of toddlers licked lollies as they splashed in an inflatable paddling pool alongside.
As the afternoon wore on, some people played cards, while others snoozed in hammocks strung between the trees. A few of the ladies, with their straw hats on, carried on their conversation knee-deep in the sea. It wasn't until at least seven-ish that anyone thought of packing up. — Annie Bennett
It's midday in a picnic area shaded by beech trees on the slopes of Tuscany's Monte Amiata. A family are unloading everything they need. Tables. Chairs. Plates. Cutlery. Glasses. Tablecloths. Serviettes. Fractious children. Smartphone-glued adolescents.
Next comes a seemingly endless procession of food: baked, cooked, fried, marinated, all of it still in the pots or trays grandma made it in. And ecco! Here come the cooler-boxes, four of them, brimful with birra-acqua-fanta-coca-vino.
There's also a little camping stove and a big Bialetti metal coffee pot - because it's unthinkable to finish a meal without a caffettino (a little espresso), and unthinkable that this should not be hot and freshly prepared. — Lee Marshall
 — The Daily Telegraph, London

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