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Fare Fit For The Queen

Penny Hawke packs a picnic à la the Brits.

Bakewell Tart - Purchase the May 2015 issue for the full recipe!

Bakewell Tart - Purchase the May 2015 issue for the full recipe!

Fans of the British period drama “Downton Abbey” may remember when veteran actress Shirley MacLaine joined the cast for a traditional English picnic on the lawns of the Crawley estate. Along with footmen in full livery, servants hovering obsequiously in the background and hampers fairly loaded to groaning with sandwiches, pies, pickles and cakes, the picnic of Edwardian times was a grand affair. The men donned white linen suits and boaters while women’s attire mandated corseted moiré gowns, elaborately feathered hats and parasols.

First popularized by Queen Victoria and written about at length by such writers as Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope and Jane Austen, the picnic is a tradition the British do well. While today’s feasts are a far cry from Edwardian times, their success still depends on packing appetizing fare that travels well and can be eaten cold. This month we invite you to take a journey into the world of British cooking as we explore some portable picnic options that not only taste good but also carry quite a bit of history in their wake.

In the past, the term “British cuisine” has been viewed as somewhat of an oxymoron. Opinion has it that Brits may serve a good breakfast but then it’s downhill all the way. However, if we take a look at British writers of cookbooks like Isabella Beeton, Eliza Acton and Hannah Glasse, we find a plethora of wonderful recipes emanating from that venerable institution, the English nanny.