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Wind in the Willows Ratty’s picnic

Wind in the Willows Ratty's Picnic Food in Literature

‘Hold hard a minute, then!’ said the Rat. He looped the painter through a ring in his landing-stage, climbed up into his hole above, and after a short interval reappeared staggering under a fat, wicker luncheon-basket.
‘Shove that under your feet,’ he observed to the Mole, as he passed it down into the boat. Then he untied the painter and took the sculls again.
‘What’s inside it?’ asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity.
‘There’s cold chicken inside it,’ replied the Rat briefly;
‘O stop, stop,’ cried the Mole in ecstacies: ‘This is too much!’
‘Do you really think so?’ enquired the Rat seriously. ‘It’s only what I always take on these little excursions; and the other animals are always telling me that I’m a mean beast and cut it VERY fine!’

-The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

With Mole’s excitement over the picnic that Ratty has packed, it’s not hard to become enthusiastic over a springtime picnic on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.
The menu is pretty self explanatory, and everything was wrapped in brown paper and string, labelled with handwritten tags, and placed into cute jars and glass bottles where needed.

For cold chicken, I roasted one the day prior for lunch, and kept some aside for the picnic. Although in hindsight, just buying one pre-cooked from the store might have been easier. I set off the fire alarm a few times with that chook…

For the cold beef I made silverside (corned beef) for dinner the night before–again making more than I needed, and keeping some stored for the picnic the next day.

The cold ham, I purchased ham sandwich slices.

Cold tongue! Yes, turns out you can buy it. I bought it canned, as I couldn’t find it available any other way. You’ll find it in the canned section, near the SPAM cans.

Potted meat… is this like SPAM or like a pot of pate? Having already bought the tongue in cans, I decided to buy pate and repackage it for the picnic in a jar.

Wind in the Willows Ratty's picnic | www.Foodinliterature.com

I was worried about finding watercress for the cress sandwiches, as a first look turned out to be fruitless. But I guess I was supposed to have a complete picnic, as on the morning, low and behold, there was a bag of watercress at the grocery store. It was packaged with the plastic wrapped lettuce and herbs. If you can’t find watercress, you can swap it for rocket, also known as arugula, because of its ‘peppery’ flavour. As for the sandwich, whenever I did a search for watercress sandwich, egg was always included. But since it wasn’t mentioned, I went with a straight watercress with butter sandwich,and cut them into little triangles. Snip the end part of the stalks and just use the leafy end bits (make sure you wash them).

Buy petit pain bread rolls, the type you can bake at home, for the french rolls. Nothing tastes better than ‘just out of the oven!’

A jar of pickled gherkins is required, as is a salad. I went with a baby spinach and rocket mix.

Then, to wash it all down, ginger beer, soda water and lemonade. The ginger beer I poured into little glass mugs with screw on lids, and the lemonade into a glass pop top flask.

Then, to finish it all off, make sure you pack a jar of mustard! They find out at the end they were sitting on it the whole time, but the mustard would taste brilliant with the cold beef.

Don’t forget an adorable “fat, wicker luncheon-basket” to pack it all in. Amazon has a whole range to choose from at different prices –> Picnic Baskets on Amazon

Rattys Picnic Wind in the Willows menu

Ratty's Picnic from Wind in the Willows | www.FoodinLIterature.com

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  1. Our family (4 generation readers of wind in willows) have been having “rat and mole” lunches forever – just need to take it to the next level and get it in the basket wrapped in the cute paper and string – and then into a hamper. Great idea – what fun to do with the grandkids

  2. Cress is not water cress! It’s Lepidium sativum. Sort of herb. And because cress was always served with egg the “cress” sandwich was to distinguish the “posh” egg sandwiches from any other sort of egg sandwiches without greenery. But otherwise great idea. 🙂

  3. Thanks for this post and to contributors for The clarifications. Our family heavily quotes and emulates Ratty and Mole on all of our boating excursions (which are largely an excuse to load up the pick-nick basket). Looking forward to refining our spread this weekend! Maurice

  4. Thanks for this great post – what an excellent idea! However, as a proud Englishman, I must say that pate is no replacement for real potted beef. Unfortunately, it is rarely eaten in England these days. It has a texture between pate and rillettes and a strong beef flavour. The main company that sells it today is Binghams http://www.binghamsfood.co.uk/. Thanks for the post – will be trying this soo!.

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