Picnic scenes (1)

Among thousands of pictures and photographs about picnic or picnicking collected by State Library of Victoria, there is a series of photos that interest me. The series was titled “Picnic Scenes,” and it is categorised under Rural Water Corporation collection. It consists of 23 photos; this writing analyses the first five photos of the series. The whole set was created by Victoria State of Rivers and Water Supply Commission Photographer.

There is no further explanation to the location of the photos, except an indication that they all took place in Victoria. But this makes the series intriguing for me. I like the uncertainty feels brought about by the series. It means I can imagine the location in accord with my knowledge of Victorian landscape. I should say it ‘the locations’ as it seems that the photos were taken in more than one place. There is a bush, a river, and a hilly scape. It can be Yarra Bend Park, or Flinders Beach. Most likely the locations were in places that I have never been into before.

Another point which I like about not knowing the exact location of the place in the pictures is because I can imagine the resourcefulness of a place, and not being confined within the popularity of a certain picnic spot. It reminds me of finding old photos in flea market; each photo would make us speculating about the people, the places, and the activities captured. What makes a place picnic spot? Perhaps a place regarded a potential picnic spot if there was a nice view to look at while enjoying picnic spread, or to take a collective photo at the end of the picnic. A place would be a perfect picnic spot when it has appropriate infrastructure to support picnic activities.

picnic scenes 2
A woman and three men by the river
picnic scenes 3
Three women and picnic food spread
picnic scenes 1
Two women washing cups
picnic scenes 5
A group of women took a souvenir photo–probably before leaving the picnic area


Public barbecue equipment: A note on generosity

We like going to a park. We went to a park for various reasons. A park is a place for Cahaya to play in the playground. It is common to see benches and tables; they are comfortable to sit and eat on properly. Children could play around the park, while parents supervise, and perhaps prepare food on the table. A park is a place for slowing down a bit, relaxing, enjoying the environment, and eating something–to make the relaxing situation more pleasurable.

In many parks or some open spaces here, there are barbecue equipments that are available to public use. To provide a barbecue gear in open spaces is such a thoughtful idea; so it was my first thought of the existence of this tool. We can do a picnic, and eating barbecued meats or veggies at the same time. The fact that they are available for public use opens up a possibility to talk about it as a sign of generosity. It is quite a generous act to provide barbecue grill equipments for free in many parts of the city.

Often I saw these barbecue tools were just standing idle. They seemed to be waiting for someone, a family, or a group of people, to cook something on them. So far I have never seen anyone using them outside the scope of picnic or barbecue activities. I always see them being used within picnic or barbecue activities. A public barbecue grill is functioned within familial and communal environment. It is a cooking tool for sharing with others in the park. The food cooked in the grill would be eaten together. A public barbecue grill is a friendly public equipment.

Barbecue in Wattle Park
A barbecue equipment in Wattle Park

To see the idleness of the barbecue tools in the park makes me wondering whether it would be considered appropriate to cook on them outside picnic activities. Would it be considered appropriate if someone cook in the park in early morning (for cooking breakfast) or in the afternoon (for cooking dinner)? Perhaps there were people who had tried to do that.




Picnic food

Sausages is a must in our picnic diet. Cahaya always likes sausages. And when the picnic location is equipped with a barbecue equipment, it does not seem right to not have sausages on the menu. Andy does not eat red meat much. To avoid eating red meat-based dishes, he always prepared bananas, apples, and peanut butter, in any picnic occasions.

We recently had our family picnic in Flinders beach. It was almost the end of summer; it was a bright and warm day. It was a perfect day for a picnic. We brought sausages, onion (to be sautéed, and served as a side dish), and bread. M also prepared smoked trout, avocado, dill, lemon wedges, tomatoes, and rucola. Cahaya and I baked lemon ricotta cake a la Rachel Roddy in the morning. I wanted to bring cake to the picnic, because I always thought that one would need to eat something sweet after eating something savoury. I also bought two packages of Peckish rice crackers, a package of Twisties, and two small packages of chocolate (in case Cahaya would crave something really sweet). To add more nutritional values to our picnic, we brought fresh strawberries and grapes to the menu.

As with what happened throughout many of our family eating occasions, for our Flinders’ picnic session, M–Andy’s Mum, took charge of the food preparation. This included prepared a variety of sauces to accompany our meals (pepper was left at home sadly). Who prepared the food for my picnics in Indonesia? I am sure that the food was prepared by Mum, perhaps with interventions from Grandma sometimes. I took it for granted that women prepared food, and did not see it as something to problematise.  But Andy was in charge of cooking the sausages on that day. Does the picnic food politics mean ‘women prepared food, and men cooking them’?

Aneka saus dan bumbu
All the sauces that we need
Other food picnic
Other food picnic

Picnic food is a combination between practical and non-practical food. What I mean by non-practical food is the kind of food, which involves long time cooking process to prepare. It is possible to bring non-practical food for picnic–but the food should be prepared and cooked at home prior. Barbecuing sausages is regarded practical as long as the barbecue equipment is available in the picnic area. Recently Andy, Cahaya, and me, went on a picnic in Jells Park. Andy needed to go far from our picnic spot to find a vacant barbecue machine. As Cahaya and me played a little bit of egg hunt near the picnic spot, my eyes caught a group of Afghani women who sat together and prepared their food. There were about 10 women sitting in circle (their children were playing in the playground, no men in sight). They chatted while kneading the dough of the bread. When they were ready, some women brought them to cook on the barbecue grill. Making bread on the picnic spot might not seem practical. But to eat certain food is like an instinct; it comes unexpectedly. For them, eating bread is a must. They had to eat the bread in every eating occasion. Perhaps this is like my Mum or Grandma who would insist on packing a bowl of rice for a picnic, or a lunch box.

Hidangan piknik di piringku
On my plate–sausages, smoked trout, sautéed onion, pickles, fresh cucumber, tomato, and dill

Another important element to consider when preparing the picnic food is the amount of food. I prefer to bring a bit more food in the picnic bags. I do not like to feel that I bring too little food in the picnic. I want to feel that I have enough food to eat. This would run in contrast with the practicality of picnic. To bring much food means to carry many bags–an aspect that some people attempt to avoid. But is not going for a picnic partly mean relocating eating gears outside home? Bringing many bags full of stuff is unavoidable. Picnic is also an opportunity to eat outside and feel relaxed in an enjoyable atmosphere. To bring many bags might add a layer of heaviness, which potentially disrupt the relaxed ambience.