Our Picnic Essay

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Dear Free-Range Kids: I felt compelled to write you a little note, today, as I have a confession to make.

For the past two years, I’ve been in charge of the picnic at my son’s school, here in Winnipeg.

I doubt any farmers would think it remotely delightful to spend Sunday eating from the ground over which they labored the rest of the week, but nevertheless city-dwellers began idealizing that practice as a return to nature.

The Romantic poet William Wordsworth, a member of the middle class, was perhaps the first lyricist of the picnic.

A wooded plot containing a tavern was recast as a picnic grove by Henry Kolze.

It sounds so simple today, to find a bit of largely unadorned scenery such a joyful draw.

In the hundred years after 1750, the population of England nearly tripled, and by 1850, half its population lived in cities.

What had previously seemed like a unified world started to divide between city and country.

One of cinema’s favorite double entendres occurs during a picnic in Hitchcock’s Grace Kelly and Cary Grant are preparing to dine from a hamper in the sexy Sunbeam Alpine roadster they have driven along the scenic Grand Corniche road when she deadpans, “You want a leg or a breast?

” It’s a common narrative pivot, with the picnic as a fulcrum: the spontaneous tryst in the shrubbery during an innocent excursion to the countryside.

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