It’ll be no picnic if Mrs Beeton’s interest is piqued. You’ll be ...

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A WORD IN THE HAND: PICNIC

It’ll be no picnic if Mrs Beeton’s interest is piqued. You’ll be niqued

A column to satisfy your inner grammar nerd

Deputy features editor: Sunday Times

In Our Time of Covid, people who cannot bear to be separated from their closest friends — and face it, that means anyone who isn’t a sociopath — have turned to outdoor ways of socialising.

One of these is the picnic. The French, although they did not invent the croissant — that credit goes to the Hungarians, a story for another day — were allegedly the first nation to have picnics. One could argue that history records many a pre-French picnic (apples in Eden; manna in the wilderness; Omar Khayyam’s jugs of wine et cetera), but the French were the first to give this a name: le pique nique. I’m not being facetious, that really is what it was called and how it was spelled. Not spelt: that is a grain dear to gluten-intolerant bread lovers.

Larousse Gastronomique, the bible of French gastronomy published in 1938, describes a pique nique as “a meal taken in the open, or a meal to which each participant contributes a dish”. When it comes to pique niques, it seems the French go Dutch...

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