How to have a Great Gatsby tea picnic at San Jose’s History Park

a thermos of tea and a picnic at History Park. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

History San Jose’s History Park is a great place to enjoy some ice-cold tea and a picnic lunch.  Summer and Autumn picnics have been a popular pastime in San Jose for over 100 years, and there’s no reason why we can’t enjoy an old-fashioned picnic in the 21st century.  It’s easy to get in the spirit by looking in your tea party pantry and bringing a picnic to the Antique Auto Show, held at History Park this Sunday, September 11th from noon to 4 p.m.   This is a popular annual event in San Jose, and many attendees dress up in vintage or reproduction clothing from the early 1900s through 1940s, and bring a period-appropriate Gatsby-era lunch!  Here is a list of suggestions for your own 1920s tea picnic:

Picnic at a table at History Park. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

Iced tea
Lemonade
Ginger ale, cola, or root beer in glass bottles
Cold chicken and lettuce sandwiches

Egg salad sandwiches
Jam sandwiches
Bread and butter sandwiches
Stuffed eggs
Veal loaf
Smoked salmon
Olives
Pickles

Apple or berry turnovers
Custards in glass jars
Chocolate, coconut or sponge cake
Lemon cakes
Cookies
Doughnuts

Recipes from the early 1900s can be found on the internet and Google Books.  By the end of World War 1, black tea had overtaken green tea in popularity in the United States.  You can get your tea from a variety of places in the San Jose area: Salada and Twinings were selling tea in tea bags by the 1920s, and most local supermarkets sell these companies’ teas.  If you’d rather have a modern loose-leaf tea, Satori Tea Bar in San Pedro Square is a good place to go.

While cloth tablecloths, enamelware cups and plates, and other non-plastic tableware is appropriate and sturdy, a 1926 cookbook advised, “Use waxed paper for wrapping sandwiches and other foods, and paper plates and napkins for service. Paper cups, paper and tin picnic forks and spoons may also be secured. A thermos bottle is almost indispensible.”  For your modern Art Deco tea picnic, insulated food containers and blue ice packs will help keep the picnic food edible, and you can use cardboard bakery boxes, baskets covered with tea towels (plain floursack towels are perfect and can be found at the dollar store!) to hide your 21st century airtight plastic containers and moist hand wipes to complete your picnic gear.  You’ll be ready to enjoy the old cars, live music and vintage clothing at the Antique Car Show!

Copyright 2011, Elizabeth Urbach.

Like what you read?  Leave a comment below, click on “Subscribe” above, visit the San Jose Tea Examiner page on Facebook, read my blog, or follow me on Twitter @SanJoseTea!

For more information:
“Have a 1940s style tea party”
“Tea with the Founders: an 18th century style tea menu”
“Tea 101: what do we mean when we talk about tea?”
Food Timeline: popular American decade foods, menus, products, etc.
“Correct Behavior on a Picnic” ca. 1926
ASDC: How to Gatsby, “Perfect Picnics”
“How to Host a Gatsby Party”
“Gatsby Summer Afternoon at Dunsmuir Hellman Estate”
The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, Fannie Merritt Farmer, 1918

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