Magazine article The Spectator

Alfresco

Magazine article The Spectator

Alfresco

Article excerpt

The word may have Italian origins but there is something very British about 'alfresco.' It encapsulates the frantic activity that is triggered when the rare summer sun requests the pleasure of our company outside. Once the year's first ripe native strawberry has been swallowed, all eyes are on the weather.

The moment the British spot a blue sky, they dash outdoors with a baggage train of doings and devices necessary for enjoying alfresco life to the full. Whether they voyage to the beach, the countryside or just into the garden, out come blankets, chairs, tables and umbrellas. Once comfortably installed, the first thing to do is eat a picnic.

What were Noel Coward's mad dogs and Englishmen doing out in the midday sun if not looking for a supenor picnic spot? That hunt carried the flag across the globe in the first place. The mad dogs just tagged along hoping to snaffle a sandwich and a quail's egg or two. Dogs are perpetual optimists where picnicking is concerned.

If you buy a hamper, eating outside is like an unseasonal Christmas with the goodies wrapped in a wicker basket, not gaudy paper. All manner of delights come tumbling out. Best of all, you don't need to send a thank you letter.

On the other hand, you may wish to put something together yourself Cold meats and runny cheese should be accompanied by smoked salmon but not that prosthetic pink variety from supermarkets. Spoil yourself with something properly cured. If you feel you deserve a special treat and your bank manager agrees, add a pot of caviar. …

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