A woven basket, brimming with picnicking goodies on display. Photo / Supplied
I remember having this romantic notion of what a picnic looked like as a child.
Everything perfectly wrapped and placed precisely in an intricately woven cane basket with a soft, red and white gingham cloth resting delicately on top.
In stark contrast, picnics in my family now tend to be sandwiches hastily stacked in school lunchboxes, fresh fruit, chopped if time permits and a few bottles of water thrown into a dark blue Countdown cooler bag. But despite the image being a far cry from how I imagined picnics would be as an adult, we still treasure the moments we spend, sharing an alfresco meal and just being together.
I know we are not alone in this as I’ve seen many a cooler bag as I’ve wandered around the Heritage Park at Kiwi North. Twenty-five hectares of rolling farmland, forest and bush, with stunning views across the city and out towards Whangārei Heads means there is no shortage of beautiful places to lay down a blanket and enjoy a portable feast in the fresh open air.
My favourite spot is on the lawn in front of Glorat, the Clarke Homestead, where there is plenty of space for the kids to run around and I can imagine what it might have been like to picnic there when the house was built in 1886.
With this in mind, I went for a wander through the museum and was happy to discover something close to my childhood imaginings on display.
A woven basket, brimming with picnicking goodies. Plates, cups and cutlery, ceramic bottles, a thermos, a cane and paper parasol and lots of room for food.
There is even a buggy blanket, donated by the Wilson family, and a straw hat from E. Wright of River Lea Farm in Titoki. It is a true glimpse into picnics from yesteryear, as are the two stunning photos I found.
I particularly love the sepia photo in which a man sits in the door of the car quietly smoking a cigarette while three ladies sit on the ground. However, it is the two kids that make this scene so special for me. The boy in the front seems like he wants to be anywhere else, while the child in the background is just having a good yawn.
Enid Blyton wrote in her book Five Go Off in a Caravan, published in 1946, “I don’t know why, but the meals we have on picnics always taste so much nicer than the ones we have indoors” and I couldn’t agree more.
What is it that makes picnic food taste so good? Perhaps because it is enjoyed in the open air, often surrounded by beautiful vistas. For me, it is because picnics are often a communal affair, occasions shared with family and friends that are often a collaborative meal. Picnics are about togetherness and making memories and I plan on making plenty more this summer with my family and my trusty dark blue cooler bag.
Mel Williams, Visitor Services, Kiwi North