Edwardian Children’s Winter Picnic

Margie Dean was a little girl who had been patient and good through a long illness, but now that she felt strong again it seemed hard to her that she could not run and play with the boys and girls she knew. One day she was standing at the window mournfully watching the children go by with their sleds and skates, when her mother said: “Margie, let’s have your little friends spend Saturday here. Suppose we play ’tis summer and ask all the boys and girls to a winter picnic.”

The invitations were short notes on small sheets of white paper with a bit of fern at the top of each. You may imagine the children’s surprise when they read: Will you come down to my pond at 1 o’clock Saturday?” They asked each other: “Did your note have 125 Blank Street on it ? How can Margie Dean have a pond in he house ? Where does she keep it ?” You may be sure they all decided not to go skating that Saturday.

What fun Margie and her mother had getting ready! They moved all the potted plants to the dining room. They covered the sideboard, serving table and mantelpiece with white. Here and there they scattered a few ferns and Margie arranged some cat-tails she had brought from the country last summer in a great jar a one corner.

The round table was covered with denim of a soft green. In the center of the table was the pond. This pond was really a round mirror with edges concealed with smilax. On its surface were toy ducks and geese, little toys of the most inexpensive sort, while grazing on the banks were miniature cows, horses and sheep. The chandelier was entirely concealed with branches of arbor vitae. Over the tablecloth were scattered a few ferns and white narcissi.

The menu was very simple, but each course was so “picnicky” that the children entered merrily into the fun. This was what they had for the picnic luncheon:

Malaga grapes
Thin bread and butter
Broiled chicken
Potato straws
Brown bread and butter
Cream cheese and lettuce
Nut sandwiches
Bird’s nest pudding
Whipped cream
Small cakes

The fruit course was in place when the children entered the dining room. Though very simply arranged this added greatly to the charm of the table. Mrs. Dean had made small nests of excelsior and placed one at each cover filled with Malaga grapes. Under each nest was a fern frond. After the first course small packages, wrapped in Japanese napkins and tied with yellow and green baby ribbon, were passed. These packages proved to be sandwiches made of different things and to be eaten with the different courses.

The potato straws were crisp and dry. With each cup of cocoa were two papier mache straws. The cream cheese was made into small “bird’s eggs,” flecked with pepper and disposed in nests of lettuce. The blancmange was molded in eggshells that Margie had taken great delight in “blowing.” They were arranged upon a flat platter in a nest of whipped cream. For this course spoons were passed, and Margie gaily reminded her friends that even at an outdoor picnic one spoon was allowed and she had saved them for the whipped cream. The small cakes were iced in three tints, white, yellow and pale green.

At the very last a tray was passed, piled high with round bags of yellow and green crepe paper. These bags were simply squares of crepe paper fluffed at the edges, filled with marshmallows and tied with baby ribbon. The spring colors made a pretty showing and the opening of the packages was an added pleasure for the children.

When the picnic was over Mrs. Dean gathered the children around a big wood fire and beguiled them into discussing summer days, gardening, and the flowers they loved best. Together they went through flower catalogs till their enthusiasm was high. She then left the room and when she came back she had a pretty bag filled with small packages of flower seeds. From this each child was allowed to take a package and she told them to wait until spring and then plant the seed and see what flowers would grow.

The recipes used for the luncheon were the following :
Potato Straws-Potato straws are light and harmless and should not be classed with harmful fried food. Cut the straws lengthwise of the potato, first in slices about one-eighth of an inch thick, and then into straws the length of the slices. They should be cooked quickly in hot fat until crisp and of a lemon color. The straws are especially pretty if cut with a fluted knife.

Nut Sandwiches-Cut thin slices of buttered graham bread into circles with a small biscuit cutter. Place on top of each sandwich the meat of one-half of an English walnut. The walnuts may be held in place with a little butter.

Bird’s Nest Pudding-Put one pint of milk on to heat in a double boiler, moisten four tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with four tablespoons sugar with a little cold milk and stir into the hot milk; stir until it thickens, then add a teaspoon of vanilla. Have ready some eggshells that have been emptied from a small hole in the top, fill them with this mixture, stand them in a pan of Indian meal or flour to prevent them from falling over, and put in a cold place to harden. Whip a pint of cream, dispose the cornstarch eggs upon a round platter, surrounded with a nest of whipped cream.