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Manky Picnics

The first sign of sunshine and everybody’s trotting out to buy gym gear and weights to try and lose the jelly that grew on us over the endless Christmas. It seems we’ve suddenly been reminded that we have flesh and skin under all those layers we got to hide under for cosy weeks and months. Is it too early to think of picnics? Of course it is but who cares. Picnics claimed to go all posh in recent times with photo spreads in magazines telling us to ditch the sangbos and opt instead for delicately packaged pork pies and fancy crap in expensive plastic boxes. I know, I did the photos. Despite claims that we, as a race, were evolving to finer foodstuffs, research proved otherwise.

Trawling the beaches of West Clare, my favourite one being Spanish Point, though you can fire in Kilkee, Lahinch and Fanore, I noticed it’s backwards we’re going with food, not ahead. The average family of picnickers seemed to have all manner of shite food with them. Taytos, Mars bars (the Lidl ones too, not the real ones) and cans of Fosters were abundant. As I spied on families, as I often do from behind my Prada shades, I waited patiently for the main course, a salad perhaps, maybe a little barbeque would be stoked up to feed the wains some good grub. Alas no, beer and crisps was it, and that was just for little Jimmy.

My ma made the best picnics ever.

When it would be announced that we would be heading off for the day, a sense of fear would grip me as the process of putting the whole hosue into the car began. Chairs, cushions, blankets, a camping stove, kettles, frying pans, then the food had to be organised.  Da liked to have something decent to eat so, short of boiling a pot of spuds on the beach,  Mum had just as much work to do as at home. Except with the added bonus of having everything covered in sand and sixty miles away.  If we were lucky we’d get to the seaside by about 4pm. Withered and starving, barely able to muster the interest to get changed, Irish style, under a towel held closed by my sister. The Mammy would set to work with the dinner, grilling and frying and dishing out endless baps, sausages and cups of tea.

On more laid back picnic days we had cold food, but  with more fanfare. The picnics of old were luminous affairs, whipped out of an array of tins that would make an army bunker collapse with envy. If you felt like it, you might roll up a slice of ham and flank that, no less, with some corned beef or brawn; mad pink shit from the murky depths of MSG hell. The meat would be cosied up to by a dollop of Heinz tinned potato salad or vegetable salad. I loved this stuff, perfectly, evenly-cubed chunks of carrot and spud, peas and salad cream. Remember Salad Cream? Long before the days of swanky mayo this yellowy dribbly sauce was à la mode on the sexiest salads across Ireland. Sexy and salad didn’t go hand in hand though. What next? A few slices of tomato, a hard boiled egg that may have been halved, quartered or even sliced in one of those fancy egg slicing devices. We had one at home, slicing the eggs was my job, as was dickying up the food in general. Next up is the beetroot,  crazy dyed purple sliced of LSD in a jar. Did anyone like this stuff? If not nobody said so. It left everything on your plate a wild pink colour when it mixed up with the salad cream and bits of egg yolk.

Runny butter on warmed up by the sun sliced bread was the perfect ronder-offerer of the meal. Nice and squishy, you could drag it across your plate to mop up all that runny, salty, saucy, yummy goo.

There’s one last vital ingredient to the Irish salad that I haven’t mentioned. No salad was complete without this,…. Any takers? I’m not giving it away. Answers on a Bockcard to….

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Val’s Kitchen

43 replies on “Manky Picnics”

Ah, memories…

You forgot to mention Heinz sandwich spread, and the unmistakable bouquet of tea boiled to within an inch of its life, infused with the aroma of partially combusted hydrocarbons from the Primus stove.

Healthy, happy days.

The primus stove, that was it! And I never had Heinz sandwich spread on a picnic, I discovered it’s wonders as a secondary school student making my school lunches. Ah simplicity, and five a day

Ah the memorie’s, always got windy as soon as the ;primus; was lit ! My old fella’s salads used to have pickled onions and torn up strips of that sliced plastic cheese ….yum!

I still have my Primus somewhere, and had it working not so long ago. It’s difficult to start now as Herself drank the meths.

Incidentally, you forgot the flaccid lettuce, and [if you were really feeling posh] a lump of beetroot.

@Grandad, the beetroot is there. But baby beetroot was posher alright. No prizes yet for the missing ingredient!!! It’s pretty obvious everyone…………and Bock, I don’t think that being chained up in the yard counts as an editorial room

Remember the drive home at the end of the day?Hot and tired,burnt as red as a lobster,crammed three deep in the back seat and all stuck together with a melted choc-ice.Great times.

“There’s one last vital ingredient to the Irish salad that I haven’t mentioned. No salad was complete without this,…. Any takers? I’m not giving it away. Answers on a Bockcard to…”

Was it Spring Onions? Chopped to within 5mm of their lives and mixed with the egg.

I couldn’t abide the Heinz tinned Vegetable Salad. Potato one was OK but mercifully and in time one of my sisters had the foresight to marry a German, so from a relatively young age I was lucky enough to experience real home-made Potato Salad which had cubed ham, spices and what were then unknown things called gherkins in them among other ingredients. At the time he had to buy Olive Oil from the Chemist !

Had a decent Salad cream lately, made by Lakeshore, tasted better than the old Chef one of childhood.

Ours always had that sliced chicken and ham. I remember once seeing a banner on one of those packets, joyously announcing that that particular packet contained extra tomato! Prior to this, we had not been informed that tomato was an ingredient but suddenly there’s extra. Ah, the good ol days. Sitting there, wishing you were anywhere else with your older sister’s hot friend effortlessly ignoring you.

@hangar queen, ah yes milk in a medicine bottle, preferably Benylin and you could still taste it
@ronwan, warm and flat red lemonade, mmmmm and no it’s not the right answer
@John Heinz Sandwich spread is a dodgy, greenish whitish paste filled with tiny chunks of stuff thats meant to be carrots etc, so small they save you the bother of chewing. A sandwich made from this and plastcky white bread would be perfect for any paraplegic

Nope, never had a Tayto salad. I did once have Taytoes for dinner. What a feckin’ disaster that was but that was in a Dub’s house; feckin’ weirdoes.

Is this a new contributor writing on BOCK or am I missing a few posts?

Sandwiches wrapped in loafpaper and a flask-a-tea. (or a bottle of tea, a glass bottle)
Custard creams.
This was a bog picnic in the 70s and early 80s
Included for drinking during the day. A full bottle of water with a good long piece of string that you dropped into a boghole to keep it as cold as ice. The fact that it was coated with muck on the pull back up was irrelevant. You’d die of the thirst turning turf:)

@unstranger yes it’s me Val, aka Bocks unpaid slave. I couldn’t pay the rent on the shed in his backyard where I live so he has chained me up and is forcing me to write for free. Send help please!!!!!!!! It’s smelly here

Schkallions, that’s what’s missing. Corned beef, ham with yellow crumbs, Egg salad. Wasps everywhere. Dear Lord.

What about the Heinz potato salad, Val?
We used to have Tayto sandwiches!
One of my brothers loved ketchup sandwiches, yuck, he still does actually and he’s 40 now (has to eat them in secret!)

@Mairead Jaysus, read the post, the potato salad in “referred to” in paragraph 4 line 8. I’m off to scrounge a cup of benylin flavoured tea at the Ma’s P.S your brother sounds sexy, can I have his number?

Bock, ever try grilling sausages and wrap them in hot dog bread, Pan cakes are really good to take along and boiled eggs. Coffe tastes ugh from a thermos which is why I bring my Primus stove model 1942 with me on all our trips. It,s a marvellous piece of engineering and takes a few minutes to get going. I took it to a repair work shop in Stockholm which has been making Primus stoves since the late 19th century and was amazed that he could change all the packings and ventils so I can use it another 10 years. He even gave me spare parts and found the original stamps on it and could date it to 1942. I have fryed hundreds of pancakes on it to the delight of the twins and boiled tons of freshly ground coffe with it and fryed meat balls and cooked potatoes on it and made many friends on my journeys to the Norwegian Russian border by offering them freshly boiled coffe. I have photos of my stoves ( I have 3 of them) and my blackened coffe pot. At your discretion.Minus 14 celcius.

@Charles, thanks for the story. I, Val, do the food stories here now as Bock doesn’t have a clue about anything. Would love to see your photos, please send them

Will do, as soon as I can. First a confession. I have four stoves as I collect them and repair them at the Primus repair shop in Stockholm which incidently is the same building as was purpose built in the late 19 century. Primus being a Swedish company who created the famous Primus stove. There is a brand called Optimus allso. I love them because they are timless and where all other stoves fail the primus will keep going. I have their Rolls Royce stove on four legs with crome tank and manometer. I have one in brass and so on. So I will get you the pictures. My pan cake ( pannkaka) form and my coffe grinder. Would you like pictures of my Primus brass blow lamp as well. Great for burning the hair on the pigs near Christmas.

mule taker (15) Ah, yes the drive home. All sunburnt and sticking to the smelly plastic seat upholstery, calamine lotion slowly drying, desperately avoiding all body contact with your siblings on the back seat as the car lurched its way home along the pot-holed road.

ronwan (21) There was no “red” lemonade, it was just lemonade, and all of it was red. Bottled by Shannon Minerals in Sexton street, in real glass (returnable) bottles. “White” lemonade was a rare and exotic substance, sold in the “Lounge Bar” in tiny little bottles.

I remember family picnics from when I was a wee lad, we only seemed to go when it was severly overcast or cold. The only item that was missing from the feast above was lashings of madeira or some sort of christmas cake!

Bock, bear with me. I have been stranded at work by heavy snow falls these past three days and first now made it home. Never ever have we had so much snow and such icey roads. We are being slowly worn out. The pics are coming just let me rest a while.

Bock its himself barely half alive and no I have not been crucified, rather the winter has transformed me into a zombie. Bock hold your hand and don’t banish me to Siberia for not sending you the pics. Any chance of a collective picnic in some Limerick park this summer?,

Val, suggestion, “The Bock Annual Manky Picnic” in a Limerick park is neccessary given the doomsday atmosphere surrounding life as it is. I would come and assisted by the twins give lessons in “Våffelar” and pan cakes. My “Piece de resistance” would be my Primus stove model 1942. I could have two stoves in action and compete with others to win the pan cake prize. Other catagories would be frying spuds and cooking coffe. We could have a soup kitchen in the corner of the park for the poorer sections of the community. I envisage calling the soup prize Nama. Then some live music would be the real Mc Coy. The sun of course will shine and the Bock Annual Manky Picnic would be a huge success and Bock would hang teddy bears on the necks of the various winners. What dya think of that Val?.

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