The Authentic French Picnic
Unraveling the mystery surrounding the ingredients & style of the authentic French picnic
What IS a traditional, authentic French picnic?
A traditional, authentic French picnic consists of a simple selection of basic finger type foods that can be easily consumed in a short period of time while respecting the following French standards, 1. wine is always drunk from a wine glass not a paper or plastic cup, and 2. Eating fresh and locally grown or produced foods is not just a treat, but an expectation!
Any of the following is welcomed in a French picnic basket: a selection of French cheeses — the preference being for those made from raw milk or “lait cru” as it’s called in French — and, yes it’s true the stinkier the cheese, the better it tastes, a couple varieties of “saucisson” — a cured sausage made from pork and sometimes seasoned with herbs, traditional home-made French bread called “baguette”, sometimes grain or nut based breads — as the custom and preference is that cheeses be accompanied by a nut or grain bread, patés and other potted meat spreads, such as foie gras, country paté or meatier spreads called “terrine” where the meat has been slow cooked in its fat then pulled and canned or sealed in a jar, French style sandwiches, olives or “cornichons” (small tart pickles), condiments including French mustards and butter, a selection of fresh, bite size vegetables such as, tomatoes, radishes and/or melon (depending on the season), a choice fresh fruit from the season and a selection of local wines. The foods offered on a French picnic typically reflect the regional food culture and the local growing season.
It’s equally important to share that the French picnic does not typically have a dedicated location where it is to be enjoyed. The French have a rather romantic and mysterious way of knowing when it’s lunch time — as if their tummy knows exactly when to rumble to signal lunchtime. And, no matter where they are, driving on the autoroute or down a country lane, or out walking in the countryside, if a picnic is part of the lunchtime plan, French respect the hour or even just the rumblings of the tummy, and pause their activity to begin the ritualistic set-up of lunch. Out comes the picnic cloth or blanket to place strategically on the ground — or on a picnic table, if available, but not required — in such a way to be able to effectively lay the goodies selected for the occasion. Some picnickers may be equipped with portable camping tables that can be easily transported in ones car trunk and used for the picnic — they are often seen in use by picnicking travellers during the summer vacation period at autoroute rest areas or along the roadside of a country lane. While location of the picnic is not necessarily the most important factor to enjoy the traditional French picnic, we at Off the Beaten Path are thrilled to have chosen some rather magical places for our tour group picnics.
Guests traveling on our Best Adventures in Provence® Tours and Bordeaux “Grand Cru” Wine Tasting and Walking Tours enjoy a first hand experience of the traditional, authentic French picnic. In Provence, guests indulge in tasting a variety of local foods while savoring regional classified wines during their village to village walk in the Luberon valley. And our Bordeaux Tour guests indulge in a traditional “Bordelais” picnic while enjoying classified wines with the vineyards of first growth sweet wine producer, Chateau d’Yquem, as the scenic backdrop. The traditional, authentic French picnic is a prized experience, a social experience that merits time, appreciation and enjoyment, and we love sharing these authentic French moments with our guests!
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