One of the greatest social events ever dreamed up, a picnic is a combination of food, family, friends, recreation, entertainment, and merriment. At the first sign of spring, people begin firing up their grills and taking their meals outdoors, and they don’t go back inside until the world freezes over once again. In fact, there are some year-round, die-hard barbecuers who won’t quit unless someplace much larger and hotter freezes over, too. lthough the summer is filled with picnics, little is generally known about how and where they originated. Listed as a new word, “pique-nique” first appeared in the 1692 edition of Origines de la Langue Françoise de Ménage. It is believed to have been a combination of “piquer,” meaning to “pick” or “peck” and “nique,” an obsolete word, which meant “trifle” or “little pieces.” It was described as a potluck gathering, to which everyone brought a dish, and the food, transported in the first picnic baskets, was set out for all to “peck at.” The word “picnic” was first introduced in English in 1748. In the 19th century, a group of wealthy Londoners formed the Picnic Society to promote this fashionable social affair, to which each attendee was expected to bring food, as well as contribute some form of entertainment. It was around the middle of the century when it became associated with the outdoors, and the first picnic blankets appeared. Its rapid rise in popularity soon led to the invention of the picnic table. Today, a picnic can be anything from a casual meal on the porch, with paper plates and plastic forks, to a formal picnic lunch, with gourmet food served on good china. It can be a large gathering at a park, or a cozy lunch for two on a picnic blanket in a scenic spot. A picnic can be a grand affair, planned or months – perhaps even catered – or a spontaneous move outdoors to enjoy the weather. No matter how differently they may be defined, however, everyone agrees that picnics are fun! Like the picnic itself, the picnic table has undergone many transformations. With porches, decks, and patios becoming more elaborate every year, and backyard gazebos popping up in record numbers, outdoor entertaining has reached new heights. Beyond barbecues, people are hosting dinners, formal parties, and even weddings in their own backyards. In order to accommodate these diverse uses, picnic tables have been created in a variety of sizes, styles, shapes, colors, and materials, to fit any occasion. Besides the classic, rustic-looking cedar, oak, and pine tables, there are elegant dining sets, sometimes made from cherry or teak. Other tables are constructed from virtually indestructible aluminum, thermo-plastic, vinyl, and polywood. These are the tables you’ll find lining hospital grounds, industrial parks, office complexes, and college campuses. They can be rectangular, hexagonal, octagonal, square, round, or oval, with benches attached or detached. Indeed, there are as many versions of picnic tables as there are of picnics.
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