As summer turns to fall, it is time to celebrate with at least one last giant picnic. If you are looking for inspiration, you will find it in The Tanglewood Picnic: Music and Outdoor Feasts in the Berkshires, a book that honors this grand tradition since its beginnings in 1937.
If anything brings people together as much as food, it is music. In Tanglewood these two traditions are intertwined. Each summer, 120,000 music lovers flock to the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home in Lenox, Massachusetts, to picnic during concerts. Over the years, attendees have been serenaded by some of the world’s greatest musicians including Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copeland, Yo-Yo Ma and many popular artists including James Taylor.
In the old days, simple picnics of sandwiches, soda, and cookies from Blue Heaven Turkey Farm, Samel’s Deli, and Angelina’s Subs were the norm. Al fresco dining at Tanglewood took a gourmet turn in the 1970s and ’80s with the establishment of Nejaime’s Wine Cellars, Crosby Catering, and Guido’s Fresh Marketplace. Nowadays everything goes–from casual grab-and go-sandwiches, paper napkins, and finger foods to fancy fixings complete with lace tablecloths, candelabras, and crystal goblets. Many picnickers have their own picnic food and drink traditions—from lobster sliders to signature cocktails.
Author Gina Hyams moved to the Berkshires ten years ago and became enchanted with the grand Tanglewood picnic ritual—how it’s both fancy and populist. She loves the magic of “lying on the picnic blanket and watching the moon rise and the stars come out as music fills the air.”
Like a beloved family heirloom, the tradition of picnicking at Tanglewood is passed down through generations. While researching this book, Gina met countless people who were first introduced to Tanglewood as children and who now share the experience with their own children and grandchildren.
Gina has written 12 books, but this is the first she has published under her imprint, Muddy Puppy Media. She wrote and published the book as a kind of “collective love-letter” to the tradition of Tanglewood picnics. The book contains 150 photographs of picnickers from the 1940s through the present from the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives and from audience members’ family scrapbooks, plus a dozen classic recipes and the ultimate picnic checklist of tips compiled from expert Tanglewood picnickers. Gina says about the book, “I hope it serves as both a tribute to past picnics and as an inspiration for future ones.”
The Tanglewood Picnic: Music and Outdoor Feasts in the Berkshires by Gina Hyams. Published by Muddy Puppy Media 2015.
Country Curtains Tanglewood Picnic Whiskey Sour Punch
Yields approximately 106 servings
Country Curtains has held its annual employee Christmas party at Tanglewood since 1968. Company founders Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick established the “Christmas at the Pops” tradition because they thought the December holiday season was so packed with parties, Christmas in the summertime would be a treat. They decorated their Tanglewood company picnics with red and green balloons, holiday napkins, and candles—a custom that continues today. Sometimes, even Santa and Mrs. Claus join the festivities.
2 1/2 gallons water
2 (24-ounce) packages Timmy’s sweet and sour cocktail mix
3 (12-ounce) cans of Minute Maid frozen lemonade concentrate
3 (1.7-liter) bottles of Seagram’s whiskey
About 12 oranges, cut into half-moon shaped slices
3 (16-ounce) jars of Haddon House maraschino cherries
Pour all of the ingredients into a large insulated beverage jug and stir with a long spoon. Fill a punch bowl with ice, punch, oranges, and cherries. Add additional orange slices and cherry garnishes to each serving as needed.