Thursday, January 03, 2008

Victorian Picnics, a Role Reversal

In my Victorian era storyline, a pivotal scene to the caper occurs during a peaceful picnic. Wondering whether the Victorians did this tradition differently, or not, I looked it up.

It wasn’t woman’s work to host a picnic in the 19th Century. By 1850, they were a popular and coveted pastime.

Queen Victoria contributed to the popularization of picnics during her lifetime. When Victorian ladies and gentlemen wished to get away from the stricter settings, they meandered out to idyllic settings.

Gentlemen became the hosts, the purveyors of the fine fare, and the tour guides including for organized entertainments. Nearly any civilized activity was game as long as the host-gentleman led it.

Scenery was paramount. In fact, it was often held up as the reason for a picnic.

Fare was as important as when dining inside, but limited by convenience, of course. Chickens baked the day before were popular, as were dainty sandwiches (sans crusts).
Fresh fruit and pickled or deviled items accompanied the requisite bread and butter. Spices were toted along, especially salt and pepper and any that were popular. Desserts were compact and refreshing such as a loaf-cake or cookies.

Picnics were originally a pot-luck style with each guest bringing one dish. But, soon, the fare became something ladies would often oversee and the gentlemen would serve by waiting hand and foot on each guest.

Blankets were layered with cloths. Table service was china and silver, although each person’s setting might have their name etched or inscribed to keep things sorted out.


Denise Eagan said...

What great information, Kristin-Marie. And it's about time that meal-creationg was men's work and not women's!

I believe I read about this in Newport, also, in the late part of the period. I think the "king" of NYC society, Ward McAllister, arranged them. Hmmm. I feel a scene coming on. . . .

Susan Macatee said...

The Victorians did like picnics!

During the first official battle of the American Civil War in Virginia, the Battle of Bull Run, well dressed men and women picnickers who gathered to watch the battle had to run for their lives when the Rebels pushed the Union soldiers in their direction.

Sounds like a reenactment gone awry!

Kimberly L said...

I love reading about the Victorian era and it seems the more you read the more you learn.