Bonjour From Paris, Friends!
This upcoming week includes Bastille Day, and the country is vibrating with excitement. Unlike last year, this year anyone who wants to can watch the fireworks live, “elbow to elbow” with their friends, neighbors, and strangers from the world over. Because Bastille Day is THE national holiday, and because the French celebrate everything by dancing, the crowds will likely end up dancing the night away.
Every French Village
In every French town or village there has traditionally been a “bal” to go along with July 14th. The word “bal” comes from “baller” which in old French meant “to dance,” and dance people would. There were many “bals” throughout the year including the “bal du samedi soir,” the Saturday night dance, because then, the “bal” was the only opportunity for young people to meet and socialize, the dating websites of yesteryear.
When I first lived in France, I went to lots of “bals” in the countryside but their primary importance was no longer what it had been. Instead, it was an opportunity to dance under bright lights, drink lots of beer and wine, eat artisanally made sausage sandwiches and frites, then crêpes and beignets, and basically revel until the wee hours.
Swaying on the Champs de Mars
Today there is still dancing on July 14th. In Paris this will mean swaying on the Champs de Mars to the music of the National Orchestra and musicians like Ibrahim Maalouf and Clementine Margarine. In Louviers it will be in the covered town square where a local rock band will play loud covers and even the most elderly will end up tapping their feet. In sweet little villages like Acquigny (near Louviers), it takes place on the river flats and has a roguish air, complete with live coals to cook the sausages, and the local firemen to cook the crepes.
“Bals,” are so nostalgic they pull at my heartstrings. Every generation participates, some to dream of times gone by, others to celebrate the long, warm summer night. I have friends who scoff at these old-fashioned events but when they come around, are the first to hit the dance floor. There is such an atmosphere of “bon enfant,” good nature, that it becomes infectious.
This year the Bastille Day theme is freedom, ordained by the government who several weeks ago gave us ours. While we may not all attend the “bal” we’re free to picnic in any size group in the Botanic or the Luxembourg garden, on the Boulevard de Breteuil or the Esplanade des Invalides, and swing or tango on the Quais de la Seine.
I have no plan except for the menu, which echoes the menu we planned for July 4. We’ve published the videos on YouTube over the last week or more, and they are all referenced below. Please take a look and join us, culinarily speaking at least, for a wonderful Bastille Day picnic celebration!
And join us for LIVE CLASSES WITH SUSAN. We do our own version of dancing and celebrating as we roll out pastry, peel and blanch vegetables, sear and steam and otherwise turn out delicious dishes! We’d love to see you there!
Picnic Videos on YouTube: