How To Arrange A ‘Car Boot’ Picnic
Anyone who has ever been to a game or agricultural fair, point-to-point meeting, or any other form of rural sporting event, will know the importance of providing a ‘good boot’. This is an informal picnic served from the boot of the car – although serving is the only informal thing about it, because there is usually a tremendous amount of preparation involved in the variety and amount of food provided.
What you'll need:
1 dozen mugs
6 whiskey tumblers
6 each knives and teaspoons
1 dozen tea towels
Large picnic basket or hamper
A selection of different sizes plastic storage containers.
Hot water jugs or a camping kettle
Plenty of napkins
The experienced rural hostess knows to take plenty of food in order to feed the many ‘strays’ that turn up uninvited, and there’s never a risk of throwing anything away.
A typical countryman’s boot would be expected to offer soup (homemade or good quality tinned – not the soup-in-a-mug variety); hot sausages; sausage rolls; hard boiled eggs; cold chicken; game, egg and bacon, or veal and ham pie; a large selection of sandwiches/rolls with substantial fillings of roast meat or ham; plain rolls and butter, cheese, and large slabs of fruit cake.
Pack the food, especially cake, sandwiches and rolls, in large plastic storage containers to prevent it from getting squashed. Keep the soup and sausages hot in airtight thermos food jugs. Offer food straight from the container to be eaten with the fingers – plates are not necessary.
Coffee should be made at the boot as required rather than taken ready prepared – a camping kettle keeps the water boiling – and should be available all day to keep out the cold, often being liberally laced with whisk(e)y. Hot whiskey (see How To Make a Traditional Irish Hot Whiskey) and sloe gin (see How To Make Sloe Gin) is another favourite tipple against the bitter cold.
Wine is best left to warmer pursuits as chilled Chardonnay can paralyse the bladder, while vintage red brought to impress the guests, can taste like paint-stripper when served in an icy wind in the middle of an open field.
Don’t be too keen to pack up and close the boot until your neighbours do, even if you’re frozen to the bone. A lot of socialising goes on after the event has finished while allowing for traffic to clear.
If you’re new to this sort of thing, accept any invitations to see how other people run their boot but don’t be a ‘guest’ too often before reciprocating or you’ll be looked upon as a free-loader. At these events people do the rounds, so expect to cater for more folk than you actually know. Keep some of the picnic back for a second serving and avoid the embarrassment of running out of food. A well-run boot is part of the social routine at most rural winter sporting events, and can even be found at more urban gatherings such as Twickenham.
Take plenty of tea towels for packing and drying up.
Don’t forget mustard, milk, sugar, pepper and salt
People eat with their fingers, so plenty of napkins should be available. Paper is okay, linen is better.
Don’t be snobbish. Offer food and drink to the help, not just the participants.
If you really want to blend in, don’t use a new picnic set with quilted inside and neatly stacking plates and cutlery. Invest in a large battered wicker basket or hamper, and wrap everything in clean, linen tea towels!
A heavy wax coat and hat with Dubarry boots are the dress code of the day. Few people look elegant on the rural sporting field and warmth is the first priority.