Every year we go to a nearby open air theatre who hold a series of plays during the Summer. The performances are mostly Shakespeare but there are sometimes their take on Dad's Army ( brilliant ) The Wind in the Willows ( also brilliant with an actual river going across the stage ) and this year it will be Alice in Wonderland. So this year's programme is As You Like It, which we went to last night, then Alice in July, followed by The Taming of the Shrew in August. All of the performances seem to coincide with someone's birthday, or anniversary - or both - so the picnics often take on a party atmosphere. We are usually lucky with the weather and in ten years of doing this I can only remember twice having to eat our picnic inside.
Everyone busy picnicking in the early evening sunshine whilst members of the cast in their costumes tend the gardens so that we feel part of the play before it starts.
There is a bit of pressure with the picnics though - we usually share out the work and the various elements that need to be prepared but inevitably you sometimes end up with too many chairs but no knives or forks. " I thought you said etc etc" Mostly it doesn't matter though and you can make do.It is also easy to have that extra glass of wine and then spend the first Act fighting to keep your eyes open until coffee and port in the interval gives a well needed boost of energy.
For the first performance of this year, or indeed any year, we are a smaller group so tend to make the picnic more like old fashioned tea, with sandwiches and cake and other delicious bits and pieces. I was in charge of sandwiches this year and made Tomato with Basil & Sea Salt Butter, and Egg & Cress with Orange Spiced Mustard Butter. Both are easy peasey to do but have a lovely piquant flavour to jazz the sandwiches up a bit. Here's how:-
Basil & Sea Salt Butter
Mix 250g softened unsalted butter with 50g finely chopped basil leaves, juice half a lemon, some freshly ground black pepper and a teaspoon fine sea salt. Beat together until well combined and then use to make some delicious tomato sandwiches.
You can try with mint, parsley, or oregano and egg, salmon or cheese sandwiches - or anything you fancy!
For the Orange Spiced Mustard Butter just mix 4-6 tablespoons of Orange Spiced Mustard into 250g unsalted butter until evenly combined. Again, I made egg sandwiches but you could easily use this with cheese or cold meats.
Alice in Wonderland is the next performance in July and I am coordinating the picnic production which will be for around 15 people! Everyone gets an email with what they need to bring whether it is equipment, food, drink or some of all three! We usually have one person in charge of the coffee, with port and chocs as well. If it has been a hot day I will take some Limoncello along as well, nice and cold in the cool box. There are proper tablecloths and napkins but we haven't yet brought the candelabra along - though if it was dark we might! Even if you haven't got a play to go to an evening picnic in the cool of the day is a very civilised way of spending a relaxing time with friends.