The Platinum Jubilee is upon us and the nation is gripped by summer celebrations, with street fairs and ‘big lunches’, festivals and tea parties, concerts and picnics across the country. With huge optimism for June’s weather in the UK, we are planning to celebrate the 70 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign largely outside during the forthcoming Long Weekend. Discussing this, whilst enjoying a cup of tea and a biscuit sitting outside the Bear Workshop, we marvelled at this rain-drenched nation’s penchant for al fresco dining.
The word picnic does appear to originate from France and may come from the verb piquer (‘to pick’) brought together with the noun nique (‘a morsel’), but it is a little murky in etymology. We know there was a gluttonous character in a 1649 French satire named ‘Pique-Nique’; and we can be sure that by the late 17th century the French were definitely ‘pique-nique-ing’, although indoors – essentially a ‘bring a plate’ event characterised by entertainments. This fashionable feasting soon caught the imagination of English Society and it is here that we see a more recognisable picnic emerge.
Gathering outside, the English focussed not on entertainments but entirely on consuming cold foodstuffs in the pastoral environment of parks and the countryside. By the time Jane Austen penned her vivid portrait of a picnic in Emma’s Box Hill chapter, it was a recognisable part of summer life across the class barriers. From Mrs Beeton in the 19th century listing a dazzling array of cold cuts, roast fowl, lobsters, forced pies, cakes and preserves as essential picnic fare to the warm sandwiches and cold tea that many of us recall from childhood visits to windswept British beaches.
Picnics have for centuries featured in art and literature as a perfect embodiment of happy childhood experience, the first on record being John Harris’ 1806 children’s book The Courtship, Merry Marriage, and Pic-Nic Dinner of Cock Robin and Jenny Wren; there is Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 Wind in the Willows with Ratty’s iconic wicker luncheon basket an essential part of their messing about in boats; Enid Blyton’s hard boiled eggs and lashings of ginger beer; and the vast array of modern-day picture books depicting idyllic outdoor feasts for children, animals and magical creatures alike.
And so, we must turn our attention to teddy bears and of course the Teddy Bears’ Picnic. Originally the work of American composer John W. Bratton, The Teddy Bear Two-step, this uplifting musical piece became enormously popular when given the famous lyrics by Irish songwriter Jimmy Kennedy in the 1930s – it has been reworked many many times in the last eighty years but our favourite is the 1950 version by crooner Bing Crosby (listen here!). There is as a result an undeniably nostalgic link between bears and picnicking.
So to celebrating the Platinum Jubilee weekend in style with our favourite bears … we recommend that you keep it simple, think Paddington’s marmalade sandwiches (it was Sandwich Week recently and a picnic wouldn’t be the same without them), but if you want to make it a little bit special the Bear Team have gathered their favourite bite-sized (very British and a little bit royal) teddy bear picnic recipes to inspire your weekend plans:
Savoury Scones (we suggest you use a mini-cutter so they are good for little hands and serve with a good quality cheddar or ham and some chutney)
Orange Jelly Boats (a nod to Paddington)
Dubonnet Royale Cocktail (for the grownups)
Add lots of crunchy summer veggies, a punnet of strawberries, and your picnic will be ‘fit for a queen!’
PAWS FOR THOUGHT
Commemorative souvenirs have been associated with coronations, royal weddings and jubilees for more than 300 years, from tea towels and mugs to special issue coins and stamps … and of course teddy bears. To mark the Platinum celebrations, we have created a limited edition of 100 Jubilee Bears, inspired by the deep purple of the coronation robe. This regal bear’s paws are embroidered with the Royal cypher and the dates in a platinum toned thread. Find Out More …
We are exploring the making process and all the people in the Bear Team and beyond who are involved in creating our very special Canterbury Bears …