Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Perfect Day for a Picnic

A Perfect Day for a Picnic
Author: Tori Finch
Publisher: Ryland Peters & Small (2013)

The Summer is filled with the makings of delicious experiences. The farmers’ markets open, packed with the best, freshest fruit and vegetables the local growers have to offer. The sun and beaches call to cottagers and boaters, while the U-pick farms and home gardens are rife with amateur harvesters filling their baskets with produce. Even the animals feast during the warm months, the pastures filled with sweet clover and tender grasses. With such decadence available in the fresh air, who would want to stay inside to eat? Packing a picnic has never been easier or more flavourful thanks to Tori Finch’s book A Perfect Day for a Picnic.

Picnic takes the concept of eating outdoors and turns it into an event. With 10 different variations, from Bohemian to Luxe (and even one for Teddy Bears!) filled with 80 recipes, it’s almost impossible to become bored! Of course, the pairings of themes and recipes are really just guidelines – if a certain food and a certain style tickle your fancy, go for it! Finch also provides useful information on “setting the scene”, be it using lanterns and exotic fabrics to create a Gypsy-like Bohemian look or spreading out gingham blankets and packing wine glasses for a more Provenรงal feel. Notes on choosing your overall menu and (more importantly) packing it are also scattered in Picnic’s full-colour pages. Georgia Glynn Smith does a fantastic job of bringing each theme to life through her photos, and the book itself looks like it would be at home on an elegant coffee table.

Unlike most “coffee table literature”, however, Picnic is a book designed to use and enjoy results from. While it has been over a decade since my last picnic experience, many of the recipes begged for me to make them for alfresco dining at home. Unfortunately, the recipes turned out to be a bit of hit and miss – the Spiced Citrus Couscous (p.28) was a hit after we cut the oil in half and nixed the onion garnish, being far too oily and muted as written. The Rainbow Slaw (p. 73) was also delicious, although nowhere near as attractive as in it’s photograph. However, the Courgette & Vintage Cheddar Quiche (p. 106) took 10 minutes longer to set than the recipe stated, and even then it was relatively soft and missing seasoning – thyme or tarragon would have greatly helped to lighten the salty sharpness of the cheese and the rich dairy. Finally, the recipe my sister, mom and I were looking forward to most – Gooey Triple Chocolate Brownies (p. 74) – were so greasy after baking that I wound up blotting it four times with paper towel. In the fridge, they set rock hard and upon tasting them it seemed like all the moisture had baked out, along with any flavour but sweet. Thankfully, microwaving pieces slightly (with a drizzle of dark chocolate sauce) softened them enough to eat, and when chopped up they made decent additions to French Vanilla ice cream and plain Greek yoghurt.

(Not So) Gooey Triple Chocolate Brownies
Gooey Triple Chocolate Brownies (p. 74)

As a gorgeous addition to the bookshelf with lots of ideas for hosting your own moveable feast, A Perfect Day for a Picnic fits the bill perfectly. However, it is weak as a proper cookbook and the recipes should be approached with a pre-existing knowledge of what the food should look like while being prepared, not simply on a lavishly decorated table. With such a Summer-tinged palette of opportunity at our disposal, I wish Tori Finch had packed a little extra flavour in her basket.
Available on Amazon

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