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The anatomy of a French picnic

We have been blessed with a second sunny weekend in a row. While the temperature was a good 8-10°C lower this time round, when the sun hit upon us directly, we remained quite warm and happily stayed outdoors without a coat.


Last weekend, for Anne’s birthday, a picnic was held at the Parc Montsouris at our regular spot. We numbered just over a dozen people, and everyone brought a little something to share. Everything was fairly casual, people came and went at convenient times, and I thought – hey, why don’t I share photos of what make a typical yet informal picnic between my friends and I?

A few baked staple favourites at picnics around here are tarts, quiches and savoury cakes. They can be baked ahead of the picnic, easy to transport, and do not require reheating before serving. On our picnic blankets this weekend were an olive tart, a leek and fennel tart, as well as an olive and ham savoury cake. (It’s great having friends who bake!)

Olive tart

Leek and fennel tart

Olive and ham savoury cake

Baked savoury stuff aside, we must not forget the ever important fresh baguettes! Not shown here – we also have a couple of loaves of sliced bread as backup, just so we don’t run out of bread completely and risk having to leave the park in search for more bread. Given different dietary requirements among some people in attendance, we also had gluten-free corn cakes and crunchy oat cakes with sunflower seeds. Just to get more variation to just traditional bread, you know.



Even a picnic doesn’t escape from the “balanced meal” requirement. We like our greens so salads and crudités with a couple of dips are always prepared too. Anne has made a couple of dips herself to go with the crudités and bread sticks – a delicious goat’s cheese and garlic dip, as well as a flavoursome sun-dried tomatoes dip. For other crunch factors, we also have packets of crisps/chips to go round.


Quinoa salad


But where’s the meat? Ah, worry not. A selection of charcuterie is never amissed from a French picnic. Typically, we would have saucisson, ham, cured meat, pâté and rillette. Looking over the photos now, I’m not sure how I missed photographing the big chunk of pâté which our nice charcuterie vendor has given to Anne as cadeau.



Jambon de Bayonne

Next up – cheeses! I nearly want to say, a French meal is incomplete without at least a couple of cheese varieties. Given there were quite a few of us, we’ve went a little cheese happy by supplying those made from milk of cow (St Nectaire, St Marcelline, Tome fumé de Savoie), ewe (Ossau-Iraty) and goat (which name just escape me right now). Quite a selection, right?

St Nectaire

St Marcelline

Goat's cheese

With all these food, we need some sweeteners too. On a warm summery day, fresh fruits are much welcomed and this time round, although I’ve only photographed the melon and strawberries, there were also some watermelon and pineapple which I very happily gobbled down. We also have some baked desserts, and more importantly, since we were celebrating a birthday, a birthday cake was a must!


Mini gateau Nantais

Homemade cake

I’ve just realised something – I had nothing on the drinks! Fresh water aside, wine, cider and fruit juices were among the contents from our picnic bags. Anne who was ever well-prepared even had a thermos of coffee prepared for those who likes a little caffeine pick-me-up after the meal. Maybe next time I should prepare a thermos of mint-tea or something, since coffee is not my usual pick of hot beverage.

So there you go, the components that make a good and casual French picnic. It can be organised quickly – a phone call or email in the morning and a couple of hours later, time to meet up at the park. It can, of course, be more elaborated should one wish to make it a Martha Stewart-style picnic. For us, we prefer to keep it simple. Afterall, picnic is a chilling out event, to be enjoyed at leisure (even the preparation stage) and an opportunity to catch up among friends on a beautiful sunny day.

Looking forward to more picnics this spring/summer!

Category: Food & Drink, Ma vie en France

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6 scribbles & notes

  1. med says:

    WOOOWWWWWW…this is not a picnic….its like a high end feast lil!!!! Super mouth watering ;)

    • Lil says:

      well we were quite a big group of people, so it was very easy to get such a great variety of spread. otherwise, for smaller group, we will still have all the different components but maybe just 1-2 options per category. ;)

  2. Sarah says:

    How lovely! I’m salivating just looking at the photos.

    Here in the South of France we get a lot of opportunities for picnics. These can range from a fancy picnic, to something simple (jambon-beurre and hard boiled eggs) but for some reason a simple ham and cheese baguette tastes nicer eaten on a picnic! :)

    • Lil says:

      We did well over the weekend ;)

      You’re not wrong that simple filled baguette tastes nicer at a picnic. For me, any sandwiches tastes nicer at a picnic in any case. Wish we have that much sunshine like you do, but on the other hand it makes me more appreciative of whatever sunny day we do get :)

  3. Nur says:

    Wow this is beautiful! Great pictures, Lil.

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