When the war began in 1914, picnic baskets were shelved. But when the peace was being negotiated at Versailles in June 1919, they were dusted off and repacked. Signaling the change, editors of The Illustrated London News suggested that it was time for picnicking—in the trenches on the French front of the battlefield, “Picnics on the Old Front: Motor Tours on the Battlefields,” so the headline reads. Now it was possible for the adventuresome to go sightseeing on the abandoned battlefields and picnic in the trenches. Never mind that the fields were strewn with unexploded ordinances and mines or that remnants of the dead were still unclaimed.
“The countryside has been all pounded and devastated, and there are only patches of green on stumps of trees.” Editors gleefully explain, “the land of desolation is not wholly without resources to aid the tired traveller.” Cheeky? Insensitive? Or a bit of dark humor suggesting a return to normal living by abolishing the past.
The suggested menu tries to make up for the discomfort of setting up in a camouflaged shelter while using an ammunition box for a table. The menu is extravagant: chicken or veal galantine, a lobster salad, two or three dishes of (any) sandwiches, a dish of ham, cold meats, sardines, foreign sausages, cheese, salad, bread, butter, Devonshire cream, French mustard, cayenne pepper, biscuits and of course, wine.
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Featured Image: There must be a patch of grass somewhere?. L. Sabattier. “Picnics on the Old Front.” The Illustrated London News, June 14, 1919. Image courtesy of John Weedy.