Musing

How to Picnic - don't try too hard and other top tips.

This post is from 2013 but the points still stand!

The Contemporary Low-FODMAP Picnic.

The Contemporary Low-FODMAP Picnic.

In an Observer Food Monthly column Jay Rayner waxed lyrical about the horror of a picnic: this suggests to me he never needs to cater for someone on a Low-FODMAP style restrictive diet. We have no options but to picnic!

In the wild.

In the wild.

 

School summer holiday’s are upon us: in our house means it’s time for the Tupperware to brace itself for a lot of action. His Lordship is going to be away for a chunk of the holidays* so I have decided the only way to keep sane is to take the children out. A lot. Eating out in tearooms and museum cafes is not an option for the Little Miss and I. Rarely can we eat more than a bag of plain crisps. Also, the default price of everything in the catering outlets seems to be £3.50. I needn’t remind you how difficult a hungry child is to manage, especially in public. Trying to wrangle a child in meltdown while they scream ‘you’re choking me’ (you’re not) is at best embarrassing and at worst, soul destroying. Keeping children’s appetites sated is the make or break of a day out. We shall be hammering the National Trust Membership card and the Park Hall Countryside Experience card (http://www.parkhallfarm.co.uk) will see more than it’s fair share of action too. Without these two memberships summer holidays can be financially crippling.

I am not going to criticise the long summer holidays, yes they may be a pain for parents to organise childcare but children need a break. A long break to dream, have adventures and, (dare I say it?) to get a bit bored. Boredom can breed invention. School isn’t just a handy childcare solution; children work really hard. Can you imagine trying to learn the volume of things they learn over a school year now? It’s phenomenal!

I digress. Picnics are the obvious solution for us. Over the past couple of years I have become something of a dab hand at throwing a picnic together. The secret? Don’t try to be clever. Food needs to be portable enough not to disintegrate in a box that’s being jammed into a rucsac and easy enough for them to carry on playing while they’re eating it. In an ideal world everyone would sit down nicely on a rug (whilst remembering to keep their shoes off it), the fare would look like Ratty’s picnic from Wind In The Willows and we’d eat from pretty plates whilst quoting Wilde or Keats. The reality is usually a small spot squeezed in an adventure playround and food is shoved in the general direction of their mouths whilst new friendships are kindled or broken.

So what should go in the rucsac? Yes, a rucsac, you need as few bags as possible to lose. Carrying everything in one shoulder bag will ruin your back and you’ll only ever have one properly free hand. It’s the most practical solution for chasing children too.

Firstly, a wet flannel, no wet wipes can do the job quite as well.

A plastic carrier bag for for rubbish and another for wet things.

For this reason a spare pair of pants or knickers is a must: they can double as impromptu swimming costumes too. 

Plastic carrier bags to sit on if the ground’s wet as they are lighter than a big rug.

Another plastic bag for anything unexpected.

Drinking bottles of water. One each, not forgetting one for you.

Cherry tomatoes with a tiny pot (think film canister size) of Maldon salt mixed with freshly ground pepper. You dip your tomato in and my children will eat punnet after punnet this way. I'm not going to stress about the tiny amount of salt they actually eat here.

Carrot sticks. The children have a love/hate relationship with these. I’ll end up finishing them off but that’s fine, I like them. I need snacks too!

Bag of crisps each (shock! Horror!). They can take a long time to eat, which can be useful.

Sandwiches. Don’t go crazy, they’re not interested in how fancy they are or how artisan the bread is – they need to stick together and be posted into busy mouths by small busy hands. Wraps are useful if you can eat them. Otherwise it’s gluten free bread for the Little Miss. You’re most likely to be able to slip a bit of lettuce in sandwiches. Cheese is perennially popular as is any sliced meat. Other ‘sticky’ foodstuffs, such as peanut butter, help the picnic cause but I tend to steer clear of pate - even with my slapdash approach to food safety, pate kept for a few hours in a warm rucsac isn’t great.

Fruit. Blueberries or grapes in Tupperware hold their shape best. Bananas ruin anything else in your bag and make everything smell banana-y. Bananas are OK in sandwiches though. Apples can work if you wrap them in whatever else is in your bag to protect them. Chopped melon in a Tupperware works and dried fruit is naturally bump resistant. If you are low-FODMAP, watch how many of these you have.

Boiled eggs can provide a little amusement, however unless you are prepared to inevitably peel them all yourself, don’t bother. 

Biscuits are good when they’re flagging. Take chocolate though and you’ll have a horrible mess if it warms up. 

I usually have a box of salad that can be anything from last night’s leftovers to some hastily assembled fridge detritus. TAKE A FORK! I recently had to eat a mix with a coffee stirrer - rookie mistake.

A knife is always useful. Even if you don’t think you’re going to need it, you may be called upon to whittle something. It happens.

 

Lightweight waterproofs - even if the weather says it’s not going to rain they can keep a chilly wind off.

Suncream and sunhats that are as small and as foldable as possible.

Cash. I accept that any outing will involve me needing a coffee at some point and if, ye gods, they have a lowFODMAP suitable ice-lolly, sorbet or ice cream I will probably let the children have one. Keep this treat until later on – you may need to bribe good behaviour.

If diets are restricted it is probably worth having a ‘treat’ in your bag in case there isn’t something available and you need to placate; I don’t think it’s fair that the Young Master should always miss out.

If you’ve never played ‘tippet’ now’s the time to start learning. Take a penny piece and they can spend a surprisingly long time guessing which hand it’s in.

Even the crappiest of plastic magnifying glasses or binoculars can be diverting in even the crappiest environments. 

Never take children in a gift shop unless you’re willing to buy large amounts of bankruptcy inducing tat. Children don’t browse, they want. And they want. And they want.

Try and prepare everything the night before or you may end up wasting most of the morning sorting things out by which time they’re hungry for elevenses.

Camera/phone – you never know.

Remember to take all your litter home, close gates, don’t harass livestock etc… Consideration for others and the environment is as good a lesson as they’ll ever learn in any classroom.

0 
 0 
 1 
 13 
 78 
 Stonehouse Photographic 
 1 
 1 
 90 
 14.0 
  
  
 
  
    
  
 Normal 
 0 
 
 
 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
 EN-GB 
 JA 
 X-NONE 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin:0cm;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:12.0pt;
	font-family:Cambria;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
 
     Young Master with his shadow Little Miss, getting the most out of the National Trust card

Young Master with his shadow Little Miss, getting the most out of the National Trust card

Don’t get hung up on schedules. If I child is showing the sort of focused and locked on attention to something as only a child can, go with it. You may learn something too about a line of ants on a pavement. Enjoy it, the C16th tapestry will still be there tomorrow, your peculiar little 4 year old won’t.

There will always be a dead bird. And they will always want to poke it with something. Sometimes it can stretch to a dead lamb. This time it was a dead shrew that they needed to document. Them’s the rules. Unclench.

Ahh a Dead Shrew....lovely.

Ahh a Dead Shrew....lovely.

 

Check whether your destination is open before you go. Obvious but often overlooked.

Know when it’s time to go home. Even if you feel you haven’t visited every part of wherever you’ve been, it’s important recognise when everybody’s tired before they start showing you with their fractious behaviour. This also applies to adults.

So there are my top tips for a day out. It is hard work but hopefully a lack of picnic ambition on your part will make it easier and you may, just may, be able to enjoy your time with your children. They’re not interested in whether they’d look out of place in The White Company Catalogue, they just want to spend some time with you; don’t ruin it by trying to impress a non-existent audience.

Lastly back to Jay Rayner, who, seriously, takes a quiche on a picnic? That’s just stupid.

*This time he'll be photographing an IETF conference in Berlin. http://stonehousephotographic.com Last half term it was a WWF job in Wyoming, I'm beginning to see a link between the school holidays and his trips abroad...

Parenting the poorly - learning to feed yourself Low-FODMAP and fairy cake recipe

Cocoa Lumps

Cocoa Lumps

Little Miss Low-FODMAP has been poorly with some sort of viral rash that was suspected to be shingles but having spoken to other parents I suspect wasn't as severe as all that. She had a couple of 'peaky' days but the rash has scabbed over and she's back, oh yes she's back! It was the bouncing off the window seat onto the sofa whilst singing 'Let it Go' that convinced me.

 Poorliness may not demand a lot of medical attention but it does demand a lot of attention. There is no point trying to fight that as a parent you are expected not only to be the constant carer but also the entertainer. As you'd expect, in our house my entertainment tends to involve a lot of cookery. Luckily, the poorliness co-incided with the arrival of some Masa Harina from Sous Chef (www.souschef.co.uk). She really got into the hang of making tortilla and there have been 5 different tortilla-based meals. It was worth every penny of the tortilla press! We've also had the ubiquitous green cheese sauce drowning anything that stopped moving long enough.

0 
 0 
 1 
 4 
 29 
 Stonehouse Photographic 
 1 
 1 
 32 
 14.0 
  
  
 
  
    
  
 Normal 
 0 
 
 
 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
 EN-GB 
 JA 
 X-NONE 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin:0cm;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:12.0pt;
	font-family:Cambria;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
 
     Tortilla faces in the sunshine.

Tortilla faces in the sunshine.

However, my favourite cooking activity was making Cocoa Lumps. Cocoa Lumps happen when you unclench for long enough (Let it Go) to let your children to invent something. It is highly unlikely it will be haute cuisine but it's only experience that divides those who can cook without a book from those who can't. What better time to get this experience in than now?

 Use a little gentle guidance to make sure the invention isn't an unmitigated disaster - the idea is for children to learn what does and doesn't work, not to scare them off from ever trying again!

 If you are cooking meat, be sure you cook it for the right amount of time and at the right temperature, Google if you need to.

 When using sugar, as a general rule if you bake it below 175C your baked goods will be soft. Above that will make for a harder biscuit/ cookie/ splodge.

  I'm of the school that often it is best to smell if something's cooked, particularly baked goods. If the kitchen smells of biscuits they're probably cooked. If it smells of burning use a time machine and get them out 5 minutes earlier.

Very painted nails.

Very painted nails.

Chocolate and orange goes together, lemon and sultanas go together but don't let yourself get too hung up on these details. Be curious - someone came up with the idea of salted caramel once and now there's no getting away from it. Worst-case scenario, it won't taste very nice and you won't make it again.

 Take notes. If you happen upon a brilliant idea or recipe you can replicate it. If it's awful you won't make the same mistake twice. If the experiment is 'almost' there, it's easy to fiddle with next time. Note-making is lots of writing and weighing practise that children may not even notice they're doing.

 When baking you need some sort of raising agent - self-raising flour, whisked egg whites, bicarbonate of soda, yeast, baking powder - see what happens when you don't use any and see what happens when you use too much!

 Experiment with substitution - if you have a recipe that you're missing ingredients for what happens when you use white sugar instead of brown, raisins instead of chocolate chips, maple syrup instead of golden syrup? We are constantly trying to make meals Low-FODMAP so this is particularly significant if you have a child with a restricted diet - they need to learn how to feed themselves!

Chalk Drawings

Chalk Drawings

If failure is not an option, make a basic sponge. You can ice fairy cakes if you feel so inclined or if you've run out of any other activities. The following guidelines makes enough for 12 fairy cakes but you can easily double or halve the ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 12 hole bun tin with paper cases.

 Weigh 2 eggs, then weigh out the same amount of (gluten-free) self-raising flour, soft butter or (dairy-free) margarine and caster sugar.

 Cream the butter and sugar together using a wooden spoon, electric hand beaters or mixer until pale and fluffy. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs and add to the butter and sugar with a tablespoon of flour. You can add a teaspoon of vanilla extract if you fancy. Mix together thoroughly, it will curdle but that will not effect the final result. Fold in the remaining flour until it's thoroughly combined. Add a tablespoon of milk until it makes a 'dropping' consistency.  This is nothing more than it dropping off the spoon in a splodge but I suggest you use the term for added credibility. Gluten-free flour sometimes needs a 1/2 tbsp more and we would use coconut milk.

 Spoon the mixture as evenly as possible into the cases (remembering to let the child have some input) and bake for 20 minutes. Clear up during this time, it's as an important a lesson as the cooking. The cakes will be cooked when the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from the tin and allow to cool on a rack.

 Decide whether you can bear the thought of decorating the cakes or whether it's now time for the millionth viewing of Frozen.