The Picnic Basket

This is the final article in August of the School for Housewives 1908 series published on August 30, 1908, and is an article on what to take on a picnic, especially sandwich fillings.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

The Picnic Basket

Where to have a picnic party, whom to ask to it and what to do at it are usually questions of minor importance or are answered by circumstances. The really vital point to be considered as, What shall be taken in the picnic basket?

Here again circumstance comes in and lends a hand. The connoisseur in picnics knows that one picnic bill of fare is not suitable to all. If the party is to be made up of healthy boys and girls, with robust appetites, substantial food is to be provided, and a plentiful supply is the chief object in view. More sophisticated young people demand greater delicacy and variety, and if older persons are included in the company their tastes are even more exacting. Plain boiled eggs, ham sandwiches and doughnuts will not full their requirements for an al fresco repast.

Another circumstance which determines the contents of the lunch basket is the locality of the picnic. If it is a spot to which one goes in carriages or by boat, and there is little or no walking to be done, a broad field of food is opened. I have been to picnic where salads, ice cream and sherbets were served as they would have been at a home reception. The ice cream was packed and transported in the back of a wagon to the picnic place, or carried in one end of a boat, and the salad stowed in a basket and intrusted to some one who would carry it steadily. Until one has tried this sort of thing one has little idea of what fields of experiment are open. The uninitiated make a great mistake when they confine their picnic provisions to the hackneyed old standbys every one has eaten for years.

As a matter of course, when there is a good deal of walking to be done to reach the lunching place, heavy baskets are undesirable. In any case, it is as well to study a certain amount of simplicity and in a measure to differentiate the picnic meal from the refreshments which would be served at an indoor party.

After all, the sandwich is the most useful vehicle in which one can take picnic food. Cold meats are unhandy, since they require a knife and fork. Even cold chicken demands a handling which results in greasy fingers and the need of soap and water. In the sandwich one may find a variety by the introduction of different sorts of filling, and the sandwich may be either dainty or substantial, as the inclination moves or the party desires.

The plain chicken, tongue or ham sandwich was our piece de resistance in my young picnic days, but many are the changes which have come since then in sandwiches as well as in other things. Sandwiches of minced meats or fish—chicken, ham, tongue, veal, lamb, beef, salt or fresh; of sardines, salmon, lobster, crab; of nuts; of cheese; of lettuce, cress, cucumbers and tomatoes; of jelly, jam, fruit—show me anything which cannot be made into a sandwich, with mayonnaise or without! With all these to draw from, what need is there of further novelty?

Yet variations still may be found. Granted the use of a fork and the possibility of transportation, and galantines or meat loaf, or meats or fish in aspic, may be served, to say nothing of salads of any sort. Then there is always the stuffed or deviled egg, with its never-waning popularity. The plain hard-boiled egg still holds its charm for some simple souls and will fill odd corners of the picnic basket.

Sweets are not usually much considered in filling the picnic basket or in emptying it afterward. The occupation of making the sandwiches, in the first place, and of eating them, in the second, is filling, and leaves little inclination for further exercise along either line. Ice cream one may always find room for, but I never found that there was much demand for other dessert than this, unless it might be a piece of cake or a little fruit. These are easily procured, and a box of candy to be taken at stray moments during the evening wll be well received.

What to drink at the picnic is of fully as much importance as what to eat, and unless one has unlimited carrying capacity for bottles of beverages, a good well or spring must be a sine qua non in the choice of a picnic place. Tramping or exercising out of doors is always thirsty work, and eating sandwiches is even more provocative of thirst. If there is a good spring, lemon juice and sugar may be carried in jars and diluted as occasion requires. Raspberry shrub, or raspberry vinegar, or currant shrub or any other of the good old syrups made at home are also excellent beverages for a picnic. Best of all, perhaps, are iced coffee and tea—when ice may be obtained. If not, it is a delight to build a fire, boil the kettle and either make your drinks fresh or heat those brought from home. The bottle of coffee may be uncorked, put into a pan or pot of boiling water and brought thus to the desired temperature.

Food alone is not the only requisite for the picnic basket. A tablecloth and napkins, either linen or paper, must be carried, a nest of wooden plates, such as are used for butter and the like by grocers, drinking cups or glasses, spoons—and perhaps—knives and forks. The necessity for these is determined by the character of the provisions carried. With sandwiches, cake and fruit they will not be needed, but will elaboration in the bill of fare additional utensils will be required.

I may add that when salads are part of the feast they may be taken in wooden or tin receptacles, ad the mayonnaise may be carried separately in a wide-mouthed bottle. Lettuce toughens when left too long in the dressing, and the salad will be improved if mixed just before it is to be eaten. Sandwiches must be put up in waxed paper, three or four together, while tissue paper may be used for wrapping the stuffed eggs, and the ends of the paper after being twisted may be fringed. No means to make the provisions present a dainty appearance should be neglected.

A Few Sandwich Fillings.

1. Cop fine a cup of cold boiled ham and two cups of coil boiled or roast chicken, make to a paste with mayonnaise dressing and spread on buttered white or graham bread.

Chicken and tongue sandwiches may be prepared by using the meat in the same proportions.

2. Rub cream cheese to a paste with sweet cream and spread it on white bread. Lay on each slice a leaf of lettuce which has been dipped in French dressing. Place over it a slice of buttered bread, either white or brown.

3. Prepare cheese as above directed and add to each cheese a half cupful of chopped nuts. Salt to taste. Or you may use minced watercress with the cheese instead of nuts.

4. Boil half a dozen eggs, putting them on in cold water. Cook for 15 minutes after the water reaches the boiling point. Rub the yolks to a powder and stir into them two teaspoonfuls of fish paste or potted ham or tongue, and reduce with melted butter to the consistency of soft cheese. Chop the whites fine; mix with this and spread all on thin bread and butter.

5. Lobster or crab sandwiches are very good and are made by mincing the meat fine and making it to a paste with mayonnaise. Spread on thin white buttered bread.

6. Plain egg sandwiches may be made by chopping hard-boiled eggs fine, the whites and the yolks together, softening with melted butter to a paste, seasoning with salt, pepper, onion juice and a little dry mustard, and spreading on bread. Sardine sandwiches may be made like the lobster or crab sandwiches.

7. Delicious sweet sandwiches are prepared by mixing good jam with cream cheese, softening to a paste with cream and spreading on thin white bread. Jelly sandwiches may be made in the same way, or the jelly may be spread on buttered bread.

Marion Harland

Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

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