Updated: Mar 19
"Oh, Marilla," Anne exclaimed breathlessly, "there's going to be a Sunday-school picnic next week--in Mr. Harmon Andrews's field, right near the lake of Shining Waters. And Mrs. Superintendent Bell and Mrs. Rachel Lynde are going to make ice cream--think of it, Marilla--ice cream! And, oh, Marilla, can I go to it?"
The best part of summertime is picnics, and what could be more fun than an Anne of Green Gables themed picnic, inspired by the most enthusiastic picnic guest herself, Anne Shirley?
In chapter 8 of Anne of Avonlea, Anne decides to celebrate her birthday with a spring picnic, even though her birthday was in March.
"I should have chosen to be born in spring, of course. It must be delightful to come into the world with the mayflowers and violets. You would always feel that you were their foster sister. But since I didn't, the next best thing is to celebrate my birthday in the spring."
Anne invites three friends to join her on a trek into the woods to "spend a golden day making the acquaintance of the spring," exploring beautiful nooks and making friends with the sun, wind and sky.
As per usual, Anne has definite and elaborate ideas about the perfect picnic menu:
"I'm going to have the daintiest things possible. . . things that will match the spring, you understand. . .little jelly tarts and lady fingers, and drop cookies frosted with pink and yellow icing, and buttercup cake. And we must have sandwiches too, though they're not very poetical."
And with that, the gauntlet has been thrown down, and WE shall have the most poetical sandwiches ever to grace a picnic blanket!
PREPARING YOUR PICNIC-SCAPE
But first, let's set the stage. For an enchanted springtime picnic to befit the romantic dreams of our favorite fictional heroine, we'll need to start with a beautiful blanket. Pack a few pastel pillows as well, to make sitting more comfortable and extend the amount of time you want to stay on the ground!
Find or borrow a vintage wicker picnic basket or hamper (which looks like a little suitcase), and pack up your loveliest dishes -- extra points if they're floral or pink. Wrap them for transport in cloth napkins in springtime shades of green, pink and yellow, and don't forget to include silverware tied in bundles for each guest with a silk ribbon.
We shall have the most delicious berry-flavored iced tea at our picnic, along with a lovely pitcher of lemonade, so pack a pretty teacup and saucer for each guest. These can be used to drink either of our beverage selections. It doesn't matter if the cups don't match the dishes, or even each other -- the variety will add to the charm of your "table" setting. If your teacup collection is a little thin, use regular glasses in as old-fashioned a style as you can find. Pink depression glass would be adorable, especially if you can pick some up at your local thrift shop.
You'll need serving dishes for your food and large pitchers for your drinks. If you're hosting this picnic in your backyard, you might like to set up a small table to hold your refreshments... they'll be further from the ants and you won't have to worry about the pitchers falling over on uneven terrain. If you're packing up this picnic to bring to a park, remember that items of this size aren't likely to fit into your sweet little vintage picnic basket, so gather up a few bags to do the job -- in a perfect world, these would be cloth book bags in a floral print, but of course, you can carry your supplies any way you like :)
And speaking of dining al fresco, I have a fun little portable table that I like to bring when we eat at outdoor concerts -- it rolls up when not in use, and it's made of wood so it can be styled to match any type of picnic menu. If you don't have to walk very far, and you have plenty of help carrying your items, you might consider bringing a small table as well, along with a little tablecloth or floral tea towel to cover it.
Just for fun, you can pack a tiny vase or mason jar to fill with flowers and make your picnic spread look "just divine!" as Anne might say. And on a more practical note, don't forget to bring along a few Ziplok bags for your leftovers, and a few trash bags to carry home anything else that should be thrown away.
ANNE'S SPRINGTIME PICNIC MENU
As Anne demands, we shall enjoy the daintiest foods possible, all of which remind us of spring. Our menu will include:
Floral Bouquet Sandwiches
Pink & Yellow Frosted Cupcakes
Blueberry Mint Iced Tea
Strawberry Thyme Lemonade
And now for the most poetical sandwiches to ever grace a picnic blanket! These Floral Bouquet Sandwiches layer meats, cheeses and apples with several sweet and tangy accoutrements, and are almost too pretty to eat!
Start with this recipe for a Ploughman's Open Sandwich from Taste.com.au. Replace the specific brand of bread called for with something light and sweet, like a potato bread, then add a gorgeous prosciutto or salami rose on top of each one (here's how you make those). This colorful stack of flavor begins with hummus, not mayonnaise, so you won't need to worry about warm outdoor weather, and includes ham, sharp cheddar, thinly sliced apples, sweet pickled red onions and a sprig of watercress. A tiny drizzle of honey will finish this masterpiece nicely.
As this is an open-faced sandwich, it will be a little trickier to transport it to your picnic location, but not impossible. Simply wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap then set each one into its own hard-sided sandwich container (like you'd send in a child's lunchbox). You might like to bring the honey along and drizzle it over the sandwiches just before serving.
Since we have so many of Anne's desserts on the menu, we won't need to add a lot of savory side dishes, but some crunchy pretzels would be a great salty complement to our soft sandwiches.
To drink, you can opt to offer one or both of these colorful springtime recipes:
If you plan to serve this with ice, either keep the ice separate until you serve the lemonade, or use less water when you make the lemonade so it's concentrated, then when the ice melts in it the proportions will be right again.
This gorgeous drink is Blueberry Iced Tea with Ginger and Mint from VeggieDesserts. It's made with herbal berry-flavored tea, honey, fresh ginger and fresh berries. Aren't the blueberry sticks adorable?
Note that, depending on the cups you choose, you may want to bring straws as well. These are metal straws pictured here -- a great environmentally-friendly option.
Now Anne has declared we'll be eating four desserts at our picnic: Jelly Tarts, Ladyfingers, Cupcakes and Buttercup Cake.
Jelly Tarts are one of the easiest things you could ever bake. You can follow this simple, 2-ingredient recipe from MyPoppet.com.au, or you can wing it by cutting circles of refrigerated pie crust dough, tucking them into muffin tins, adding your favorite jam and baking until the crust is brown.
Ladyfingers, on the other hand, are definitely a recipe for the advanced cook. I'd rather buy these, but if you're up for a challenge, try this recipe from SeriousEats.com. It's labeled "simple" but -- full disclosure -- it requires a water bath and a pastry bag, so I'm not sure in what universe that's considered easy.
Pink and yellow frosted cupcakes will be very easy to buy or make according to your favorite recipe, but what's a Buttercup Cake? Apparently it's a traditional white cake with vanilla icing, but it appears to be difficult to get the flavors and texture just right. The lovely ladies over at 36Eggs.com tried two different recipes -- one vintage and one modern -- and didn't care for either one. Here's their post if you'd like to read more about their experiment (and they also have a different take on what to serve at Anne's picnic!). For your picnic, you may prefer to serve a traditional white cake from your favorite bakery instead :)
If you'd like additional recipe ideas, check out the Anne of Green Gables Cookbook.
And now you have everything you need to host an epic, divinely beautiful picnic inspired by Anne of Green Gables. Just find a spot with "scope for imagination," invite your favorite kindred spirits, and consider wearing a dress with puffed sleeves in Anne's honor!
Amazon Shopping List for Picnic Supplies
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