To Say Nothing of the Three Crates of Picnic Provisions

Over the weekend I read To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis, which is a time travel caper that references Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog), by Jerome K. Jerome. And since the first one was fun, I picked up the second, and am now reading about Jerome & friends’ adventures on the Thames.

One of my current research interests is food eaten on expeditions (long story—maybe I’ll write about it later) so I glommed onto the references to overladen Victorian picnickers in both books. A little digging around online found this recommended menu from Mrs. Isabella Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1861:

BILL OF FARE FOR A PICNIC FOR 40 PERSONS.

2149. A joint of cold roast beef, a joint of cold boiled beef, 2 ribs of
lamb, 2 shoulders of lamb, 4 roast fowls, 2 roast ducks, 1 ham, 1
tongue, 2 veal-and-ham pies, 2 pigeon pies, 6 medium-sized lobsters, 1
piece of collared calf’s head, 18 lettuces, 6 baskets of salad, 6
cucumbers.

2150. Stewed fruit well sweetened, and put into glass bottles well
corked; 3 or 4 dozen plain pastry biscuits to eat with the stewed fruit,
2 dozen fruit turnovers, 4 dozen cheesecakes, 2 cold cabinet puddings in
moulds, 2 blancmanges in moulds, a few jam puffs, 1 large cold
plum-pudding (this must be good), a few baskets of fresh fruit, 3 dozen
plain biscuits, a piece of cheese, 6 lbs. of butter (this, of course,
includes the butter for tea), 4 quartern loaves of household broad, 3
dozen rolls, 6 loaves of tin bread (for tea), 2 plain plum cakes, 2
pound cakes, 2 sponge cakes, a tin of mixed biscuits, 1/2 lb, of tea.
Coffee is not suitable for a picnic, being difficult to make.

Things not to be forgotten at a Picnic.

2151. A stick of horseradish, a bottle of mint-sauce well corked, a
bottle of salad dressing, a bottle of vinegar, made mustard, pepper,
salt, good oil, and pounded sugar. If it can be managed, take a little
ice. It is scarcely necessary to say that plates, tumblers,
wine-glasses, knives, forks, and spoons, must not be forgotten; as also
teacups and saucers, 3 or 4 teapots, some lump sugar, and milk, if this
last-named article cannot be obtained in the neighbourhood. Take 3
corkscrews.

2152. _Beverages_.–3 dozen quart bottles of ale, packed in hampers;
ginger-beer, soda-water, and lemonade, of each 2 dozen bottles; 6
bottles of sherry, 6 bottles of claret, champagne à discrétion, and any
other light wine that may be preferred, and 2 bottles of brandy. Water
can usually be obtained so it is useless to take it.

The section of the book directly following this is on managing one’s servants. You’re certainly going to struggle to carry that much food without some kind of help.

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