When I was younger, picnics were a tradition my mom and I carried out every Autumn, sometimes just the two of us or with my friend Francesca (and of course our dog York!).
We usually kept them simple: few sandwiches, pieces of cake, biscuits, tea and fruit juice. We grabbed a colorful blanket, our jackets and went into the woods. The perfect spot was in the pioppeto (poplar woods) since the trees are usually planted far apart. It also allows you to check for wild animals coming at any time (one of the reasons York – a German Shepard – came with us, although he then always left us for his friends).
At the time I wasn’t paying much attention to the changing colors, I simply liked the carpet of red and brown leaves and the contrast of our bright blanket. Now that I’m older and having experienced momijigari while living in Tokyo, I pay more attention to the changing nature of Autumn and would probably do things a little differently.
This morning I thought I wanted to go on a pic nic so I asked my mom for recipes for the foods we usually ate and I’ll share with you, so you can have your simple pic nic too!
Our sandwiches were super simple and we used the bread that we had at home that day: with crust, without crust, sandwich bread, normal bread, you name it.
My favourite though is focaccia salata and cherry jam: it’s the perfect contrast between the saltiness of the focaccia and the sweetness of the jam. True: cherries are not in season so another option is to use Nutella instead – it’s even sweeter in my opinion.
If you’d like to use seasonal foods that Autumn is when we switch from cherry, peach and apricot jams to chestnut cream – in Italy it’s usually sold at supermarkets too. Not as sweet as Nutella, but with a similar texture, so it’s a thumb up if you’re not into very sweet things.
Another favorite was mayonnaise, ham and cheese, although today I’d probably pass on that, at least on the ham part. Or, if I wanted to do a completely vegan version, when I was living in Leeds I loved to make a sandwich with ciabatta bread, (vegan) mayonnaise, silken tofu, sesame seeds, lettuce and tomato (with a pinch of salt). Definitely would go for that now!
In our pic nics, cake was optional – if we had it we added it to our basket, if not we simply passed on that.
Crostata can be a bit messy if you’re not careful, but torta paradiso o torta margherita are the best. They don’t have any cream nor jam inside and that’s how we usually eat cake, not sure if it’s just us or it’s a more European thing?
But… If I remember correctly we once had after eight cake – chocolate batter with mint flavoured chocolate cream inside (yes we love chocolate!)
My favourite biscuits are pasta frolla coated with sugar grains and that’s what my mom used to make for our pic nics. For a while, the bakery on town used to make them too, so sometimes we bought those and were super delicious!
Other times, along with those biscuits we made some by using a double disk of pasta frolla with jam or cream in the middle.
The good thing I remember about those pic nics is that we didn’t go and buy foods from the supermarket, so there wasn’t waste either and we knew what we were eating.
Tea and fruit juices
That’s where we were buying straight from the market, as we almost never made our own juices – but made our own jams.
We have always had a range of teas each in its own colorful tin box – I remember the Darjeeling one was bright mauve. I loved to pick our tea for the day: we had this habit for a while even when I was in high school that, if the week had been heavy, we picked a tea from our collection and drink it “the British way”. That for us was basically using our tea pot with the tiniest cups you can think of and picking our favourite tea (in leaf). It was nowhere near the British afternoon tea, if you were thinking of that.
If you’ve ever drank warm tea after something sweet and sour, surrounded by people you love, your pet and nature then you know that mix of nostalgic and melancholic yet serene emotions that I’m feeling thinking back of that time.
Ah… Would love to prep for a pic nic again! 🍁