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How to Gatsby

Perfect Picnics

By Laurie Gordon

Edited by Diana Limberis

Setting the Scene

2011 Gatsby Summer Afternoon Perfect Picnic winner
- photo by Kyla Colleen

If you haven't rented a table or are bringing your own vintage table set, a carpet, blanket or sturdy tablecloth for the ground works well. Add pillows, parasols, fans and wear those hats for comfort and to keep cool and protected from the sun. Go to Chinatown for linens, parasols (paper and fabric), crochet gloves, fans and baskets. Picnic baskets, vintage magazines, books, games, a Victrola, a ukelele or guitar, vintage cameras, antique photos, candy dishes, vintage tins or boxes can all create that authentic ambiance for the day.

Setting the Table

For a period picnic, please, no plastic or Styrofoam! An elegant picnic might use your vintage china, Depression glass or unbreakable contemporary glass (such as French bistro style tumblers) packed safely using your linen napkins. For a casual tableau, paper plates with basket holders will work. Your vintage silver plate, silverware, & linens (embroidered or from Chinatown) are required. Bring extra bowls, platters and serving pieces for the friend who brings their excellent potato salad in a plastic container (and hide it under a cloth).

Practical Packing Tips

In addition to baskets, you can use old suitcases to transport everything. Put dry goods in one and food and drink in another. Bring an empty basket to store cameras, video camcorders, sunscreen, first aid or sewing repair kits, non-Gatsby essentials, etc. Bring trash bags, Ziploc bags for leftovers, paper towels, dishtowels for end of day cleanup. Bring a blanket or cloth to cover things you don't want to show.


A Gatsby Summer Afternoon Perfect Picnic
- photo by Richard Look

No cans please! Instead, choose sodas in vintage style bottles, use a funnel to put beverages in plain bottles with stoppers, use Sherry or wine bottles with corks, use a pitcher for juice, lemonade or iced tea, a shaker for cocktails, a punch bowl with a block of ice floating in it. And champagne, sparkling cider, and wine are always appropriate. See Whole Foods for bottled sparkling lemonade & orangeade. Stewart's Sodas are also a good choice (lots of flavors!). Trader Joe's has a very vintage-looking big bottle of Geyser orangeade soda, pink lemonade soda, etc. Remember that bottles with ceramic stoppers can be cleaned and re-used year after year.


Four Menu Plans

Period picnic menues from www.foodtimeline.org

An Elegant Supper for Six

Complete with carpet, table items, linens, candelabra, vintage china, silver & crystal, flower arrangement.

  • Hors d'oeuvres
  • Tea sandwiches (no crust, 2-3 cut out shapes) filled with chopped egg & caviar, smoked salmon & cucumber, olives & radishes with cream cheese, deviled ham with pimiento, watercress & butter
  • Chilled cucumber soup with sour cream
  • Tomatoes stuffed with shrimp salad
  • Thin slices of chicken or ham with cold asparagus vinaigrette
  • Hollowed-out orange shell filled with berries
  • Rice salad with celery, nuts, raisins in a ring mold
  • English trifle in a crystal bowl: layers of pound cake, vanilla pudding, raspberry jam & whipped topping
  • Champagne punch with block of ice floating
A Simple Picnic for Two
  • Small sandwiches with trimmed crusts (see above for filling ideas--may be wrapped in waxed paper)
  • Potato salad
  • Fruit & cheese plate
  • Apple pie
The "Scarlett O'Hara"
  • Eat an enormous lunch before the Gatsby
  • Bring a basket of cake, strawberries and champagne
The Visitor
  • Bring a basket of one thing to share, such as home-baked cookies or bottles of wine
  • Share with friends, sample their picnics
  • Offer to help clean up, pack up, cart out their things
© Art Deco Society of California