Eating out of doors or alfresco dining, is a simple pleasure enjoyed the world over. Back in the 1600s the French (who introduced us to such culinary delights as baguettes and croissants) were enjoying the pique-nique; a social gathering held outdoors where attendees brought food to share. By the 1800s the English had gotten in on the act and were packing a basket of food, grabbing a rug to sit on and picnicking regularly. (And so ends your somewhat brief etymology lesson for the week…)
Last Saturday the 16th March, the boys and I along with some of our extended family and friends, converged on the lawns overlooking the Murray River at the Barham Lakes Complex for the inaugural “Producers Picnic”. Hosted by our energetic foodies, The Red Gum Food Group, the Producers Picnic was part of the annual Melbourne Food & Wine Festival.
Some of us opted for the pre-booked hamper box for four people and we weren’t disappointed. Each of the hessian lined timber hamper boxes were packed full with a picnic rug, wine glasses, napkins and cutlery and plenty of locally produced goodies: sour dough bread, ham, wine, avocado, pork pies, cheese, quince paste, walnuts, honey, dried figs, chocolates and delicious dessert muffins. Other members of our picnic party went for the “graze as you go” option of buying directly from the ten or so local stallholders. Epicurean delights included Dorper kebabs, Angus beef burgers, cheese platters, Vietnamese fried rice, Japanese savoury pancakes, chutneys and other condiments, wine, coffee, hot chocolate and desserts to die for… lemon tarts, pavlovas and chocolate mud cake and cream (my favourite).
The Barham Lakes Complex provided the perfect setting with lots of lovely lawn between the gum trees along the riverbank to lay picnic rugs and set up deck chairs. Our talented local musos, The Curlew Brothers and Sean McConnell played and sang all afternoon and were very much appreciated by the crowd of two hundred plus people attending the picnic.
Our love affair with food continues to grow, pushed along with high rating television cooking shows and glossy food magazines. The demand for food tourism is increasing, beneficially lifting the profile of rural Australia and drawing more visitors to our country towns. With less than two years under their belt, the Red Gum Food Group has already held a number of highly successful showcase events in addition to their popular monthly farmers market in Koondrook. Last year’s “World’s Longest Lunch” and last weekend’s “Producers Picnic” gave locals and visitors a delicious and entertaining introduction to the many fine foods and wines grown and produced around our region.