I watched the spectacular Bastille Day parade on the Champs Elysées (from the comfort of a big, cool home in Normandy), for the very first time this year, and was entranced. I grew up on military bases and am no stranger to brassy uniforms, fighter planes, salutes, and elegantly proud looks. But as in so many sectors, the French do it better. Bunches of pristine white rooster feathers -150 per cap – blew elegantly in the breeze; the pompoms on the caps of the Breton bagpipers gave a splash of color. And those heavy standards, carried with grace by men and women who remained impassive, waved with precision. There were bright white gaiters on shiny black boots, olive drab, face-hiding scarves that matched camouflage uniforms, and then there was the vivid French Foreign Legion.
French Foreign Legion
I wonder, sometimes, where I’ve been to have missed this beloved spectacle and to not know the history of the French Foreign Legion. Their red and gold epaulets and white kepis (hats) set them apart, but so does their history. Begun by Louis Philippe in 1831, it began as a battalion that allowed members from throughout the French Kingdom, and it is still composed of men from countries other than France (no women in the force except as support). Highly trained to go into the most dangerous of circumstances, it developed into a loyal band that never separates, not even on the parade ground. For while the other battalions split in half to go around the presidential dais, the FFL approached and, as one body, turned to the left.
Dancing Eiffel Tower
As if this wasn’t enough drama for me in one day, on my return to Paris I watched the Eiffel Tower dance as part of the fireworks. Direct catapult from history to contemporary technology.
Food wise, guess what’s happening? Tomatoes! Eggplant! Basil! Zucchini! Peaches! Nectarines! Berries! Apricots! You might say “Oh, the usual suspects.” But no. There is no way to label them “usual suspects” because we’ve been waiting all year for their goodness. They are the visitors we love, the houseguests we never want to leave us.
Oh the Lettuces
And the lettuces, oh the lettuces. How do French farmers and market gardeners grow such beautiful lettuces? They inspire rabbit desires, you know, those that have one nibbling on green leaves all the livelong day. So as we celebrate the various holidays of summer, and summer itself let us marvel in all the seasonal ingredients that inspire, causing the imagination to work overtime as we figure out how to prepare a meal without heating up the kitchen
For lots of ideas, get yourself a copy of FRENCH GRILL