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Picnic baskets in a field with a table cloth

The Picnic Basket

Kristy Dodson
Kristy Dodson


The picnic basket that has been pushed around in our garage for several years – okay, maybe 15 years-has gotten my attention lately. Since our work schedules have been quite different, we have been taking more “day trips”. The picnic basket is perfect for packing a few snacks or a full meal that we can enjoy anywhere and anytime.

With restaurants being unpredictable (closed, unclean, limited capacity) we find it easier to pack our own food and take the picnic basket out to a park, a field, a rest area, or even the steps of a quiet church. One of the most recent, memorable picnic moments for us is when we were traveling to Texas and stopped in a small, quiet town and shared our lunch with our traveling friends right on the front steps of a small white church. When our children were young, we packed picnics often but the one we enjoyed at the foot of Kennesaw Mountain sticks with me; driving by that spot brings back this sweet memory. The picnic basket made both experiences easy and stress-free.

picnicking with friends on the church steps
The quiet little church was the perfect place to picnic during our travel to Texas.

Believe it or not, the picnic basket and picnicking have quite a complicated history. It dates back to the 18th century and got its beginning with the French. After the French Revolution, many aristocratic picnickers fled to Austria, Prussia, America, and Britain. Picnicking really took off in England and in order to maintain their old way of life while being short on money, they opted for picnics with their influential friends. Where the word ‘picnic’ comes from is something of a mystery. The French root may derive from the verb piquer (‘to peck’ or ‘to pick’) and the noun nique (‘a small amount’ or ‘nothing whatsoever’)[1]The History of the Picnic Those invited were expected to contribute to the meal by bringing a dish or drink-much like today’s gatherings of friends.

What we think of as picnicking did not truly take off until around the 20th century. The luxury of bicycles and motor cars made more of the English countryside accessible; thus allowing people the chance to move their feasts and leisure time outdoors. Over time, the idea of a picnic congers up the notion of an alfresco event that is typically casual and relaxing[2]The History of Picnics by Steven Musumeche

Before long the baskets were being designed to accommodate standardized dishes and easy-to-pack food. Today, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a picnic basket filled with prosciutto, fine cheese, olives, and wine. Today’s baskets are happily packed for others by one or two people and the meal is still meant to be enjoyed outside…alfresco.

Picnic tablecloth on wooden folding chair.

Don’t worry, the picnic basket can be as simple as an everyday basket filled with the foods you enjoy. Grab a simple blanket or table cloth for sitting and take your vacation, your free time, or your day trip outside. I hope you will share your picnic basket photos and the adventures with me here. Let’s go dust off the picnic basket and stay curious!

A knife, fork and spoon for dining.


1 The History of the Picnic
2 The History of Picnics by Steven Musumeche


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