Everyone knows what a picnic is – a meal that you have in the open air, usually in the countryside, while sitting on the ground. But do you know how the picnic came into being? Did you know that we owe the word ‘sandwich’ to an English Lord who loved to play cards?
Where does the word ‘picnic’ come from?
According to the famous French dictionary Le Petit Robert, the French term ‘nique’, which dates from the late 18th century and which can be found in the saying ‘dire nic’ (meaning ‘to not bother about something’), means ‘a thing of little value’. Faire un repas à pique-nique (‘to make a picnic meal’) therefore means to make a meal for which each person contributes something. Émile Littré provides us with another explanation in his Dictionnaire de la langue française, which states that the term comes from pick, ‘to seize’, and nick, ‘point’, ‘moment’.
The history of the picnic
The picnic is an ancient pastime that dates back to the Renaissance, when people used to eat outdoors, sitting on the ground. This was particularly true for peasants, who used to eat in their fields with their herds. The nobles used to have picnics as well, during their hunting parties or when having country feasts, with everyone bringing something along as a contribution to the meal. The story goes that Louis XIV himself adored this practice, and would always take some meat, pastries or fruits with him when travelling.
The golden age of the picnic came a little later, in the 19th century, particularly during public festivals in the Republic, when people made the most of the sublime royal parks and gardens, once off-limits to the common people, and held great lunches and dinners on the grass. .
And do you know where the ‘sandwich’ gets its name?
Legend has it that the sandwich was invented by an Englishman named John Montagu, the 4th Early of Sandwich, in 1762. This passionate gambler, reluctant to leave the card table in order to go for dinner, supposedly had the idea of having his servants bring him some cold meat between two slices of bread. According to an alternative version of the story, it was the desk at which he worked, rather than his gambling table, that John Montagu did not wish to leave (he was a member of the government at the time). If this theory is true, the reputation of statesmen everywhere remains intact! Whatever the truth may be, many people claim that the Earl of Sandwich merely put his name to a practice that has been around since Antiquity.
The concept of the bespoke picnic
Some picnics deserve special attention, particularly when it comes to asking for your beloved’s hand in marriage, or celebrating a birthday. Nothing should be left to chance if you want to ensure that this moment remains etched in your memories forever. For this reason, it is sometimes advisable to call on an agency with specialist expertise in the field. They will be able to design a high-end, custom-made event, and make sure it is a success.