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Jul 11, 2014 10:01 AM

Traditional foods for la fête nationale française?

Not an easy search! Anyway, do such things exist or not so much? I've never been in France for the Fête Nationale. A bit of googling turned up "lighter fare" (in July, ya think?) but not much else. We always celebrate it in our house, and I typically break out my Françoise Bernard cookbook. But I'm not feeling very inspired this year, so could use some ideas. I'm all set on the beverage side of things, but would be happy to hear about those as well.

Merci et bonne fête à tous!

<edited to fix my error>

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  1. No idea, we're being treated to a Phillipine meal in memory of the Family Compact.
    The best idea I recall was that of srhcb on another long-forgotten website suggesting we "Eat cake."

    1 Reply
    1. re: John Talbott

      Well we had a "traditional" Franco-Philippine lunch today after the defile and it was fabulous. Long live the Family Compact.

    2. Other than méchoui/ barbecue (got a whole lamb hanging around ?) in the provinces, I can't think of any food that represents le 14 Juillet.

      1. There is no such thing as special dishes for 14 Juillet, which by the way is not called Bastille Day.

        Tomates-mozzarella with blueberries on top could be the national salad, but I just made that up.

        40 Replies
        1. re: Ptipois

          I somehow remembered that in the body of the post, but forgot it in the title, so thanks for the correction.

          Thanks to all who responded and satisfied my curiosity.

          Now, I'm off to get a whole lamb (not really.)

          1. re: VaPaula

            (I'm virtually here to help you virtually carry home your virtual lamb.)

            1. re: VaPaula

              Don't listen to Pti. Go to a Bastille Day firemen's ball and eat merguez made and served by Paris's finest hunks.

              1. re: Parigi

                You're on the right track.

                The alternative to merguez at village fetes is andouillette. Some of the finest I've had have been cooked on a grill by volunteers who slice them up and grill them with onions, liberally lacing with white wine. (The more laced both volunteer and andouillette, the better.)

                1. re: mangeur

                  I heart both of you because:

                  1. The imagery of hunky firefighters serving food, not to mention the fun "laced volunteers" must have (I used to be a volunteer coordinator), put a smile on my face on an otherwise lousy day at work, and
                  2. You reminded me that my local butcher makes a most excellent merguez in-house, so I do believe I've found my inspiration (even though it's not particular to this Fête as ptitpois pointed out, I'm OK with that.)

                  1. re: VaPaula

                    Don't feel like the Lone Ranger. I have signed up for a Chow dinner on 14 juillet. I am spinning a fine thread about the relevance of our menu.

                    it's about the company and their French Connection, not what's on the plate.

                    Will send up a cup to you, VP. Salut!

                    1. re: VaPaula

                      Yes, I've been to one of the firemen's balls (doesn' t that sound slightly off-colour?) and thoroughly enjoyed it.

                  2. re: Parigi

                    One of my wife's good friends got takeaway from the Fireman's Ball she attended - the local Pompiers are very hospitable.

                    1. re: Parigi

                      Well maybe the firemen are the ritual food for 14 juillet.

                      But merguez are the staple food of all Paris popular festive events, and are definitely more a symbol of the Fête de l'Humanité than of 14 Juillet.

                      14 Juillet does not have a particular symbolic dish, in the way that bûche de Noël is related to Christmas, oysters are related to the New Year's Eve, and lamb is related to Easter.

                      1. re: Parigi

                        The parties at the firehouses are very often held on the evening of the 13th, by the way, and not on the 14th....check the calendars/look for fliers

                        (glad I thought about that one....I came dangerously close to typing "firemen's balls are very often held on the 13th" which MIGHT be true, but that's none of my business)

                          1. re: Ptipois

                            a bit of a meander - have you come across a merguez recipe that's particularly good?

                            Merguez and chipolatas do not exist back in the US, of course...but my butcher said he'd make them for me if I can find a recipe. I'm having a hard time finding a good recette for either of them -- 750g, Marmiton -- not coming up with much.


                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Merguez are a very hit-and-miss food. They can be delicious (rarely) and horrible (too often).

                              The best I know in Paris are the Tunisian ones served at Chez Hamadi, in the Saint-Michel area.

                              Try this recipe:

                              1 kg boned lamb shoulder (or half beef, half lamb)
                              thin sausage casings
                              2 tbsp ground fennel seeds
                              4 large garlic cloves
                              2 large tbsp prepared harissa
                              1 tbsp paprika
                              2 large tbsp dried mint
                              1 tbsp turmeric powder
                              3 tbsp olive oil
                              salt to taste, freshly ground black pepper

                              Finely chop the meat and the garlic.
                              Mix the meat by hand with the oil, salt, pepper and harissa. Mix well for a few minutes.
                              Add the garlic and all other ingredients.
                              Cook a small piece of the mixture and taste; correct seasoning.
                              Put into the casings, twist every 6 to 7 inches, and let dry for a few hours before refrigerating.

                              1. re: Ptipois

                                My fave recipe:
                                - take one merguez
                                - have it cooked and served by a hunky fireman
                                - open mouth.

                                  1. re: Parigi

                                    well, yeah, but my local firemen, even though hunky, would be asking "Merrr gwezz? Whut the hell is that?!"

                                    They're okay with hamburgers and barbecue at the local festivities, though.

                                  2. re: Ptipois

                                    Thanks!! I'll be printing that out and taking it to the butcher....

                                    1. re: Ptipois

                                      Thanks for this. Even without the casings, this would be great as sexy "lamb-burgers".

                                      1. re: mangeur

                                        You're welcome. One more word of advice: merguez have to be grilled crispy, to get rid of most of the fat. They're also tastier that way.

                                        1. re: Ptipois

                                          oh yes...and grilled...not fried on that outdoor griddle called a plancha!

                                          (our house was a popular place in the summer -- I'd found a big gas grill at Jardiland, and everyone wanted to come over to see if Americans really know how to grill...given the lack of leftovers, they must have all been pleased!)

                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                      Merguez really don't exist in the US? They are very common here in Montréal.

                                      1. re: lagatta

                                        they exist, but you have to be looking for them on purpose and be ready to go really out of your way to find them.

                                        Not like you're going to just pick them up at the store the next time you're out.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          And, at least in my area, don't expect them to be the same as those you find at a village fete. More likely designer interpretations: organic ingredients, prime(r) cuts of lamb, tame spicing. :)

                                          1. re: mangeur

                                            not much *is* like what you'd find at a village fete....including the conviviality, music, and cheap rosé and 1664.


                                            "our" town holds candlelight procession (with paper lanterns) through town,down to the river to watch the fireworks, then back to the school playground where the ball is held. Knack, beer, and music from a local band, all in a giant cacophony of lights and noise and families enjoying the evening.


                                            1. re: mangeur

                                              I've actually seen merguez including pork at supermarkets here (Québec), but only buy the lamb or mutton kind (sometimes mixed with veal or beef). A lot of the "real" French ones are very greasy indeed. When I was younger, I loved eating a merguez-frites upon arrival in Paris, but those get very hard to digest upon reaching a "certain age".

                                              Indeed, it isn't really possible to export the ambiance of a village fête, from whatever country. Or even a neighbourhood fête, in a city.

                                              I liked this one:
                                              Just some simple seasonal French foods. Yes, it is in French, but easy to read, and I think it could be understandable after a "google translate". If not, you can easily find just about any of these simple recipes in English, except, perhaps, for the one based on a Carambar. I don't eat chocolate bars like that, so I don't know the nearest North American or British equivalent. Someone must, especially those with children.

                                              I'm a snob, albeit a cheap one, and only like very dark and bitter chocolate...

                                              1. re: lagatta

                                                Carambar is saltwater taffy, not chocolate. And yuck. They're painfully sweet to begin with.

                                                I just made clafoutis Saturday, and have been scolding myself to keep myself from sitting down and cleaning out the whole pan.

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  Then there is a Canadian toffee bar that is similar. Those things are hell on the teeth.

                                                  Clafoutis is a wonderful idea this time of year, with fresh cherries or other fruits. A bit later in the season, I make one with "Susini" (Italian plums). I rarely make or eat desserts, but those are so similar to making a quiche or savour flan that I succeed...

                                                  And you can simply buy the sponge cake base for those tarts with fresh berries. Easy.

                                                  1. re: lagatta

                                                    oh yes -- Carambar are guaranteed to separate your dental work from your teeth.

                                                    I would walk a country mile for good Italian plums -- quetsches in French. And yes, they make a divine clafoutis.

                                                2. re: lagatta

                                                  Thanks for the the link, lagatta. Some nice-looking recipes in there. I don't bake much, nor eat a lot of desserts, but clafoutis is one dessert I like to make - and eat, of course. I usually think of cherries or berries for clafoutis, but I like the idea of plums.

                                                  1. re: VaPaula

                                                    cherries are the most traditional fruit, but nowadays there are not only clafoutis with other fruit, but even savoury varieties for l'apéro or a starter. (clafoutis salés)

                                                    One of the first that popped up:

                                                    1. re: lagatta

                                                      Technically a clafoutis can only be made with cherries. With any other fruit, it is called a flognarde.

                                                      1. re: lagatta

                                                        Today's Figaro said apricots and nectarines are now less expensive and more plentiful; so we bought cherries and a watermelon.

                                                        1. re: John Talbott

                                                          If you make a watermelon clafoutis, please remove the seeds from each watermelon.

                                                  2. re: mangeur

                                                    I was wondering about that. 4505 has a delicious sausage that they bill as "merguez", but I have no idea how close it is to the real thing.

                                                    1. re: TVHilton

                                                      Both Fatted Calf and 4505 have varied their merguez a lot over time.

                                                      1. re: TVHilton

                                                        The merquez at 4505 in the SF Mission is straightly the 'designer' style, the lamb is too mild and too lean.

                                            2. re: sunshine842

                                              The problem this year is that the 13th was also the final of the World Cup!