Growing up, an English summer was not complete without a picnic. Every child looked forward to their school holidays, but the summer break was particularly magical…six weeks of fun, sunshine and outings. I know England is universally joked about for wet weather; but my childhood memories of summer include sunny days and long evenings sitting in the garden until 10pm, when darkness finally laid its blanket over us. I remember day trips to the beach with buckets and spades, plastic flags, donkey rides and ice creams. Then driving home sandy, salty, tired and happy. Castle explorations and rambling in the woods hunting for blackberries also feature in my memories. Another popular pastime was water fights with old washing up liquid bottles with the neighbourhood children; there was usually some incident where detergent hadn’t been totally removed and ended up in someone’s eye, but they were fun times, filled with simple pleasures.
However, no childhood memory is complete without a picnic. To picnic fans though, there are picnics and then there are magnificent picnics. Take my mum for example, she was renowned for her casual approach towards the picnic lunch; a few sandwiches wrapped in cling film, a big bag of crisps, some fruit and drinks loaded into a plastic bag. Then there was my auntie, a master of picnics, no gathering with her was complete without a picnic basket, china plates, glasses and a wonderful spread of food.
There really should be a rule though, that no picnic is complete without pork pies or scotch eggs. These two British delights are reasonably priced, readily available and the foundation of an excellent lunchtime smorgasbord.
The scotch egg, possibly a Yorkshire invention, is a protein delight and a must for all egg lovers. Hard boiled eggs encased in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and fried. I believe there are conflicting stories of their origin but wherever they truly hail from I could kiss the clever person who had this vision.
My favourite though, is the pork pie. Not to be confused with the pork pie hat, the pork pie is utter deliciousness. As the name suggests it’s made from pork which is covered in jelly before being blanketed in hot water pastry. Traditionally served cold or at room temperature these pies make the perfect picnic treat. For meat lovers nothing comes close to beating the experience of sinking your teeth into that thick crusty pastry and hitting a layer of soft jelly followed by the firmness of the pork.
I still long for the British summers of my childhood when life was free from worry. I can visualize my brother and I sitting on a picnic blanket with our parents, waiting expectantly for whatever tasty treats were hidden in that plastic bag. I would secretly hope that pork pies and scotch eggs would emerge, while my brother was a fan of the humble jam sandwich. I can see my dad drinking hot tea from a flask while my brother and I shared water or lemonade from the same bottle. We didn’t worry about germs as much then and I can recall our sandy hands and grubby fingers, stained from the dirt, being brushed slightly by our mum, before we stuck them into the family sized bag of crisps. It was a time of freedom; a time filled with family, friends, fun, laughter and picnics.
So when you’re next visiting England in the summertime, may I suggest you find my auntie, or another picnic master, some pork pies and scotch eggs and head off to explore the stunning British countryside. Ramble in the woods, climb trees and visit castles. I truly hope you enjoy the simple pleasures of my childhood memories.
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