And so it began…
Just over a month ago now, on the Summer Solstice of 2009, a group enthusiastic picnicers gathered on Hoxton Square, London, under the red and white flag that was the symbol of the first event, “A Taste of Things to Come”. An anarchy symbol morphed into a picnic bench to spell out the intention – no longer were we fools to the robbery of overpriced bars and restaurants serving up expensive drinks and salads of limp lettuce and unripe tomatoes. No longer will we be slaves to the supermarkets. We won’t eat your pre-packed out of season processed food and snacks. We will reclaim the power of good, simple, local, seasonal food and show it off in fantastical picnic extravaganza!
At least that was the idea. As the man at the local offi pointed out after questioning the significance of our lovely little red badges, our choice of lubrication for the event was arguably off theme, “Ah a picnic to promote local food! Excellent idea… I see you have chosen 8 cans of Jamaican Red Stripe to compliment your food”. Hmm.. seems we still have some way to go. “But it goes with the colour scheme” is not a valid excuse.
The choice of the longest day for our first picnic was obviously a good move. A beautiful sunny day was spent lazing in the park and the long hours of sunlight encouraged us to stay out well past the intended 4 pm finish time until long after the sun had gone down.
So what was on the menu? Aside from the small oversight on the booze, the local food theme went pretty well. An impressive spread was enjoyed by all including some fantastic spicy green-bean salad, fine cheeses, homemade chutney, standard picnic-issue (but top quality!) egg and watercress sandwiches, and fresh, still-in-the-pod peas. Lovely jubbly. The bakers had been hard at it too – homemade too pretty to eat strawberry cakes and cherry topped buns with tea (not coffee!) icing both went down a treat.
Entertainment for the day was unexpectedly provided from travelling performance artist Nicola who joined us for a few hours and treated us with an outing of her “Dream Coat”. The coat has many individually decorated fancy pockets, each containing a dream. You choose a pocket, take out the dream and swap it for one of your own which then gets passed along. Fantastic. My plane crash dream was eagerly swapped for a story of a horse running and bizarrely I haven’t suffered any more terrifying plane crash dreams since. Magic. Should I feel guilty for the poor soul who will soon be treated to recurring dreams of planes exploding mid-air? Perhaps, but you’ve got to take your chances in the dream world. You never know what might happen.
There was also face painting and an impressive BMX (with basket) stunt display!
So as you can see “A Taste of Things to Come” was not just about the food. It was also about was getting together in a free space, to share good times and stories. It was great to see friends we’d missed so much while we’d been away. And while our main aim of promoting local, seasonal food may have slipped into the background of catch up chats and Jamaican lager one thing shone through – that is that spending many hours loafing in parks with good food and good friends is simply a great thing to do. This kind of thing should be part of our day to day lives, not a once a year only if it’s boiling and you’re skint event. No more rushed dinner hours! Take your time over lunch every day. Sit in the park, chat to a stranger, offer them a sandwich. Don’t spend your weekends in shopping centres, go to the woods, sit by a river, pick wild blackberries and enjoy being outside. It doesn’t rain as often as you think it does.