I miss African outdoor eating, and there is nothing I love more than baking potatoes and grilling sausages while on a bush safari. Al fresco brunch at weekends, in a lush tropical garden, is also top of my list. Life in the UK does mean adjusting these expectations somewhat, but there is much outside fun to be had. This is my list of the essential ingredients for a picnic with the elements – sun, grass and the occasional midge.
A good place to go to
Al fresco options are easy to find in the UK, with the National Trust properties providing a wonderful set of locations, some on huge estates where you can easily disappear, having chosen a good spot on a crag, or by a river, or a wooden copse. Or even, like Virginia Woolf, choosing a picnic near a lighthouse.
A large picnic cloth (and a cushion)
I hope you expect me to recommend one of our Toghal picnic cloths based on African fabrics. Aso-oke strip cloth from Nigeria was our inspiration for the Vine picnic cloth. It is wide and generously proportioned, printed on 100% cotton fabric with a double edged linen contrast edge, which makes them a lot easier to spread out. The smoothest lawn will still benefit from a cushion between you and it. So I recommend the green twigs cushion based on another African textile – Kuba cloths from the Congo – which blends rather well with the picnic cloth.
A good picnic bag (or a hamper)
My Toghal tote bag can carry all I need – my car keys, purse, phone, and anything else I need to have quick to hand. Back to the Congo for our inspiration from the Mbuti people for our Riverbed design. When we were designing the Tote we chose wide shoulder straps that don’t bite, and an easy to access pocket at the front for last minute items. The bags are roomy enough for your picnic cushion and picnic cloth, or for anything heavy like drinks and fruit. I haven’t yet succumbed to a hamper, as I find it easiest to have several Tote bags, but if I ever do feel a compulsion to get one, this is one I might buy.
Easy, delicious food (made or bought)
Your picnic is now chock-ful of African textiles, and you need to eat. There’s lots of ideas for stuff to make at home but it is often much much easier to simply buy Waitrose. You can go further up the oh-la-la chain by discovering Unearthed.
Rain gear (and a spare umbrella)
We all know what British summers are really like, and it is best to prepare well. Outer gear from Cotswolds, who currently offer my children Duke of Edinburgh discounts, and a sturdy, chunky Toghal umbrella with our now familiar Riverbed design on the insire, to remind me of African textiles and Congolese forests) as I shelter under it clutching the food that I have to quickly save from damp, in that final dash to the car.
What do you consider to be the essential elements of a picnic? Suggestions welcome below.