CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Clare Mackintosh: The last course

PUBLISHED: 14:51 15 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:51 15 October 2018

One meal, forever and ever? Easy. I�d have a picnic

One meal, forever and ever? Easy. I�d have a picnic

This content is subject to copyright.

‘What meal would you choose, if you could only ever eat that meal three times a day forever and day?’

Last night at supper we debated a variation of the death row conundrum: what would you order for dinner if your head was on the block tomorrow? We called our (slightly less macabre version) the ‘forever food’ question: what meal would you choose, if you could only ever eat that meal three times a day forever and ever and ever?

“Steak,” said Josh, who from the age of four knew exactly what he wanted at every restaurant we ever visited, and has never once changed his choice. That boy has expensive tastes (or a lack of imagination). “Salad,” declared George, whose fondness for lettuce knows no bounds. Evie struggled to decide. “Chilli con carne,” she plumped for eventually. “With tortilla and guacamole and grated cheese. That way, if I get bored, I can just have a cheese wrap. Or an avocado one.”

The kid’s smart. Clearly she gets it from me, because my own forever food strategy follows a similar line of thought. One meal, forever and ever? Easy. I’d have a picnic. Oh, how I love a picnic! It is a continual source of disappointment to me that picnic season is considered to run only alongside the summer months, because I would happily snack on pork pies and cocktail sausages at any time of year. Nor do I require a beach or sunny park for my buffet spread: I have eaten picnics in the pouring rain on a clifftop, sitting in a traffic jam on the M1, and – one famous summer – crammed into the boot of my people-carrier, to avoid a particularly vicious wasp invasion. Not to be reserved for bank holidays, picnics are an any time, any place meal, and one of the few meals I enjoy making as much as I enjoy eating. Perhaps it’s because one doesn’t so much cook a picnic as compile it (I suspect someone, somewhere – almost certainly London – is even curating one…) which makes for the sort of haphazard result that can never, ever, be wrong.

In fact, the only thing I don’t like about a picnic, is carrying the bloody thing. Whether it’s an Instagrammable wicker basket that lets in the flies, or an insulated cool box that bangs against your legs, transporting one’s efforts from kitchen to picnic spot is quite literally a pain in the neck. Worth it, though, for the spread on arrival. Even the most nondescript sandwiches look better when arranged prettily on a tartan rug, and it’s common knowledge that all food tastes better out of doors.

Not for me the trendy recipe books with their suggestions of stuffed focaccia and beetroot hummus; I stick to the basics. Hard-boiled eggs and sausage rolls with flaky pastry; ham sandwiches with fiery mustard. Sticks of carrot and bowls of cherry tomatoes, so we don’t get scurvy. Packs of crisps and chocolate biscuits melting together in the car.

Everything I learned about picnics I learned from my mother (and Enid Blyton – lashings of ginger beer, anyone?) and now the very act of hauling out the picnic box from the garage is enough to transport me back 30 years. Only now it’s my children, asking if it’s time for lunch yet; my children, taking lids off plastic boxes like they’re digging for treasure, then handing me sandwich wrappings and empty yoghurt pots like I’m a human dustbin. It’s my children, eating too much and being sick in the car on the way home.

“What would you have for your forever meal, Daddy?” Evie asked. Roast beef, we guessed. Salmon? Steak and kidney pie? Curry? He reached across the table for my hand, and his voice softened. “I’d share Mummy’s picnic, of course.” The children made sicking noises at this public demonstration of affection, but I didn’t care. I squeezed his hand. “Okay. But you have to carry it.”

Clare’s third novel Let Me Lie, published by Sphere, is out now. Book four is on its way!

For more information or more from Clare Mackintosh, visit her website or follow her on Twitter! @claremackint0sh


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & about

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

One hundred years ago this month the guns fell silent, marking the end of what was to become known as The Great War. Stephen Roberts remembers the impact the war had on Cotswold lives from 1914-1918

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Being a region so steeped in history, there are plenty of locations in the Cotswolds with spooky stories from over the years. From bloody executions, eerie apparitions and headless horsemen, we pick 23 of the most haunted locations throughout the Cotswolds to visit if you dare

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

New bat cams installed at Woodchester Mansion help study protected breeds while also becoming an added attraction for visitors. Jo Barber looks at the work of one of the UK’s foremost bat experts and the mansion’s valued volunteers

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

From an all-boy, all boarding prep school for just 30 pupils, to the quietly trailblazing yet still traditional school it is today – here is a snapshot of Beaudesert over its 110-year history

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Of all the castles in the region, none have seen as much war, romance and royalty as Sudeley over its dramatic 1,000-year history. And with such a colourful and eventful past, it is easy to see why some people believe there could be spirits from bygone eras which still wander the halls and corridors to this day

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Following a record year for ‘visitor giving’ donations via local businesses, applications are invited to fund conservation projects

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

What started as a business ploy by one Cotswold firm has developed into an inspirational garden

Read more
Monday, October 8, 2018

If a bit of English eccentricity is your thing, spend an enjoyable afternoon exploring the delightful follies of Faringdon

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search