As you would expect the French take picnics very seriously. Find out what to pack in your hamper so you can enjoy a traditional French picnic too
The key to a French pique-nique is of course a good choice of bread. Choose a freshly baked baguette, picked up that morning from the boulangerie, or a flavoured bread like a fougasse – a Provençal flatbread flavoured with rosemary, olives or lardons. Sliced pain de campagne or pain aux céréales makes a good base (tartine) for a topping.
Pack plenty of cured meats – jambon, saucisson, rosette – which make tasty sandwiches, and some jars of terrines, rillettes and pâté to spread on slices of bread. The French love to crunch cornichons (gherkins) with those.
Cheese always makes excellent picnic supplies. Either break off chunks of hard cheese like Comté, Cantal, Abondance or Tome de Savoie to nibble on, or take a creamy, soft type to spread, like a chèvre frais (fresh goat’s cheese) or a blue cheese.
While the Brits have coleslaw, the French have their own take on grated raw veg. Carottes râpées – shredded carrot doused in a tangy vinaigrette – is a firm favourite which you might see eaten alongside remoulade, shredded celeriac in a creamy sauce. Tomatoes are eaten whole, like a fruit, and radishes are also crunched whole, sometimes with a little bit of butter.
A staple for the French lunch, quiche is a real people pleaser. Buttery pastry filled with an egg, cream, cheese and bacon mix, quiche lorraine can be eaten hot or cold so is a great addition to any French picnic.
Another great addition to a French picnic are savoury cakes, which the French simply call ‘cake’. A ham, sun-dried tomato and olive cake is one of the most popular.
The more elaborate French desserts are tricky to take in a hamper so opt for fresh fruit – grapes, figs, peaches, apricots, strawberries – and small cakes like madeleines or biscuits or even a tarte tatin, cooked the night before.
A French picnic wouldn’t be French without the odd bottle of wine. In the summer, you’ll often see families place bottles of rosé and white wine in the cooling waters of a stream running by their picnic spot.