Austrians are not what you would call a nation of picnickers. Not sure why this is, but there are only three occasions that I can think of where you bring your food and consume it in full view of others: Firstly, although rapidly disappearing nowadays, you can still find certain "Heurigen" (establishments where local wine producers are licensed to sell only their own produce, sometimes restricted to just a couple of weeks every autumn) where you're allowed or expected to bring our own food while you consume the house wine on the premises, secondly, when you go hiking and bring dry-cured sausages, some cheese and bread (in the case of our family mostly in a battered tin box rather than tupperware) and thirdly, when you go to spend a day on the lake.
I guess there are two main reasons that prevent us Austrians to frolick and indulge on our picnic blankets... one is that, unlike London, you'd be hard-pressed to find a space in an urban park, as most green spaces are inaccessible to the public and apart from "don't step on the lawn" signs left, right and centre, you have park patrol keeping a vigilant eye on anyone attempting to break the rules. So you'd find yourself restricted to the few park benches scattered along the paths, which are usually occupied by the elderly taking a well-deserved break or some homeless wino sleeping his alcohol levels down to a reasonable level.
But apart from the difficulty of finding a suitable space, there is a common negative attitude towards eating in public. Despite there being many shops and kiosks where you can grab a quick bite, eating in public is frowned upon and you're really expected to either consume your purchase in the immediate perimeter of the locale or take it whereever the wind blows you next, be that your work place or your home. If you attempt to eat your hot dog in a tram or on a bus, you're most likely to lose your appetite altogether under the scornful eyes of some old ladies... and we all know such specimens, don't we?
So the rare occasions where we enjoyed our lunch al fresco was usually in summer, when we headed for some mountainous lake or even just a nature pond in the vicinity of my hometown to spend a day in the sun. On such days, my Mum would prepare a "Wurstsalat" (I will spare you the literal translation as it is bound to evoke the wrong pictures in your head and ruin your appetite). We use "Extrawurst" or "Knacker", a cold meat similar to some luncheon sausages you can get round here, the ingredients of which are not far from a Frankfurter or Wiener, a hard cheese (like Emmental or Gruyère), onions, tomatoes and sweet peppers, thinly slice all of it and dress it with a simple vinaigrette. Straight out of the coolbox and with a crusty baguette on the side, I cannot think of anything more refreshing on a hot summer's day...
Wurstsalat: summer salad with cold meat, peppers and tomatoes
(serves 6-8 as a light lunch)
800 g luncheon sausage (or thick Wiener sausages)*
2 green peppers (capsicum)
250 g hard cheese (Emmental, Jarlsberg, Gruyère, Comté, etc)
8 medium tomoatoes
1 medium onion or 8 spring onions
7 tbsp groundnut or corn oil
7 tbsp cider vinegar
Slice the cold meat very thinly. Dice or slice the capsicum and onions, cut the tomatoes into small wedges. Thinly slice the cheese and cut into bite size.
Transfer all ingredients into a large bowl or tupperware and season generously. Mix thoroughly, sprinkle with chopped chives, if using, and consume cold, with fresh and crusty bread.
* Unlike English sausages, ours are pre-cooked and thus can be consumed cold. You should find a similar cold meat in a German delicatessen or big supermarket.