The Picnic

A History

By (author) Walter Levy

Hardback - £42.00

Publication date:

26 November 2013

Length of book:

208 pages

Publisher

AltaMira Press

ISBN-13: 9780759121805

Picnics are happy occasions and have always been a diversion from every day cares. We think of the picnic as an outdoor meal, set on a blanket, usually in the middle of the day, featuring a hamper filled with tasty morsels and perhaps a bottle of wine, but historically picnics came in many forms, served any time of the day. This first culinary history reveals rustic outdoor dining in its more familiar and unusual forms, the history of the word itself, the cultural context of picnics and who arranged them, and, most important, the gastronomic appeal. Drawing on various media and literature, painting, music, and even sculpture, Walter Levy provides an engaging and enlightening history of the picnic.
This enjoyable, amusing work explores the evolution of the picnic and its role in popular culture. Levy begins with the interesting history and etymology of the word 'picnic.' For example, in 17th-century France pique-nique referred to an indoor meal in which each guest contributed a dish or paid for part of the meal; not until the early 19th century in England did 'picnic' refer to an outdoor meal. The following chapters cover the wide variety of picnic fare and both indoor and outdoor picnics. Chapter 5, 'Picnics in the Arts and Popular Media,' comprising the final two-thirds of the book, examines the picnic theme in art, film, and literature and how the picnic can be used to convey any number of topics from the vagaries of love to class and race relations. Overall, this is a charming and well-researched book on a deceptively simple meal. Valuable for libraries with strong food history or food studies collections. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates and general readers.