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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

14 Juillet - Bastille Day

Well - I just found some time before the festivities begin.....Bastille Day - Quatorze Juillet....same thing, and I suppose because they were rather busy cutting heads and things off on this day, the originators didn't have too much time to make up special menus or even dishes for the occasion. Over time, there haven't really been many efforts made to invent any, the day being a sort of family  and social event. Probably for this reason, most people stay at home, rather in the style of the Americans on the "4th of July" and burn the devil out of bits of meat and fish over the open fires called BBQ's, or group together with friends and neighbours occasionally to put on a sort of small local community meal together.
Not surprisingly, being France, one of the reasons for the bloody Revolution was food, or the lack of it....A certain Queen of France stated, when told that "the people had no bread to eat" suggested that "they should eat cake".....I suppose as well that this was one of the reasons she lost her head over the issue.
It doesn't pay to play with the French on the matter and question of food - as she learnt - to her cost!
Since Bastille Day falls in the height of Summer, things tend to take place outdoors, which almost guarantees a downpour! Since it's a National Day, menus vary largely with the various Regional products, and tend to have dealings with the well known "natural" but very typiqually French things. (in all manners of preparation....)
It's almost as though they delight in expressing their total Frenchness, and why not..... they are!
and like to prove it even in the pan....!
Strangely, the younger French are no longer such avid eaters of these delicacies, and seem to prefer something like this as part of their National Day meals......which when served with  "frites" is actually the National dish of a neighbour to the French...Belgium! Of course it's delicious, but it isn't French.....!
Eaten all the year round, it's strange to note that the entire home production of mussels in Belgium is.....ZERO!
They don't cultivate them at all, and all the moules/mussels you eat in such quantity in Belgium are imported from France - Holland and Germany....
There are often....everywhere in Central Europe, whole evenings given up to "Moules/Frites" evenings...days....lunches....where you pay a price and eat as much of the stuff as you can, always hoping there isn't just ONE mussel that isn't good, or you're going to be staring at ALL the mussels you ate, surrounded by masticated chips as well! Not a pretty sight....
Of course the French eat other well-known dishes of National pride, like ..Coq au vin....or little Regional specialities such as  .."Boeuf Bourguignon" (a beef stew made preferably from red burgundy wine - excessively expensive but a délice!) My local variation is "Gardienne" very similar but made with the less expensive local wines of the Gard and the Hérault, and using bulls meat as opposed to cow (beef) - The bull's meat comes generally from the local Arena's - it's the period of the bullfighting season...Noble beasts in a stew....? At least that way, their deaths serve some purpose, although the amount of adrenaline pumped out makes the meat tougher and much longer cooking.
Incidentally, for the same reason, "game" meats are always more tender if the animal is "ambushed" rather than after a long chase when the adrenaline is pumped into the muscles, but try telling Hunters (Chasseurs) that fact...!
So - there we are, what started as a suggestion from Royalty to "eat cake" has finally developed into another French food orgy... - enjoy it!

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