The Mikado lends itself well to a country-house opera picnic. Sushi in clippered bento boxes, miso soup in a flask, chilled sake and matcha ice cream from the cool bag. If one were seeing Carmen it would have to be Iberico ham, Manchego cheese and Cava. For Rigoletto prosciutto, burrata and Prosecco. For La Bohème foie gras and champagne. Wagner is not so appetising. The Ring Cycle calls for bottomless vats of Valhallan beer; The Flying Dutchman ship’s biscuits and scurvy.
On my first trip to Glyndebourne last summer, Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio posed a problem. Did one pack wiener schnitzel and Viennese pastries in deference to the composer? Or imam biyaldi and Turkish delight for the seraglio? Spanish omelettes for the young lovers, Belmonte and Konstanze? Or cucumber sandwiches, cold poached salmon, new potatoes, strawberries and cream for the country-house setting? I may not have known the first thing about opera, but, by Götterdämmerung, I was determined to have the best picnic on the lawn.
Which is why, on the appointed day, I was up at dawn slicing capers into smoked-salmon and cucumber sandwiches, beating eggs for a frittata and putting the oven on for a roasted beetroot, za’atar and date-syrup dip. Imagine how crestfallen I was then, stepping off the shuttle bus on the bluest of June afternoons, to discover my mistake. In fussing over the menu, I had forgotten the kit.
What a pair of savages we must have looked, my boyfriend and I, sitting on our blanket, drinking pale ale and apple juice from the (now very warm) bottle. All the other picnickers were eating at folding tables, laid with starched tablecloths, the best silver cutlery, candles, and cut sweet peas in jam jars. At least I had had the face-saving foresight to bring proper linen napkins.
A picnic is nothing without its paraphernalia. Before you even think of the menu, you need a folding table and chairs. The Vango range (from £27, Cotswold Outdoor) is really quite ugly, but it is light, and you won’t see the tubes under the tablecloth. This you will find at the Volga linen company (£156) with matching linen napkins (£16, and another £6 for a monogram).
If it’s windy, you need napkin rings. Silversmith Patrick Mavros makes elephant and rhino rings if your picnic aesthetic is less Bognor, more Out of Africa (£350 each, eek). John Lewis have useful tablecloth clips (£10 for four). A cashmere picnic blanket (£499, Brora) will keep legs warm, while Akin & Suri make the prettiest hand-printed picnic cushions and quilts (from £39).
Paper plates are horrible, china ones too heavy. It’s tin you want, painted with designs from the collections of the Ashmolean Museum, V&A and William Morris Gallery (£5.95, Wells & Winter). Citronella candles (£19.99, notonthehighstreet.com) will keep the wasps off the strawberries. Coolboxes and wicker baskets are a bugger to carry if you’re taking the train. Harrods coolbags are the thing (£17.95 for small, £22.95 large). Or put the whole lot on two wheels with a picnic bike from Moynat, Parisian trunk-maker since 1849. The Moynat Malle Bicyclette costs £33,659, for which you could buy 100 top-price tickets to Glyndebourne, with £3,659 left for champagne. This should be Pol Roger (£39.99, Waitrose) to be kept cool in a silver stag-head ice bucket (£10,000, Asprey) or a silver-plate champagne bath (£69.95, John Lewis).
On the train home, whether from Garsington or the beach, you will want a Thermos flask (from £9.95) of something warming. Sencha green tea for Madame Butterfly, hot chocolate for Mozart and strong, hot Earl Grey (£9.95, Fortnum & Mason) for all other picnic occasions.