Le 14 juillet

Le 14 juillet

What is referred to as Bastille Day in the US is simply called le 14 juillet in France. What our national holiday celebrates, in case you don’t know, is the day in 1789 when the French revolutionaries seized the Bastille prison, which was seen as a symbol of the royal oppression (it turned out to hold but a disappointing handful of half-forgotten and anonymous prisoners, but that’s not what history chose to remember).

Le 14 juillet is a celebration with military parades, fireworks and bals des pompiers, those dances traditionally organized on village squares by the local fire brigade, and where many a happy couple was formed in the olden days, when the occasions to waltz were otherwise scarce.

When I was little, my family was usually on vacation in the mountains in mid-July, and the fireworks were a huge thing to look forward to and a unique opportunity to stay up late. There was also the exciting responsibility of holding a lampion, one of those colorful paper lanterns hooked to the end of a long stick, during the retraite aux flambeaux, a candle-lit walk around the town center to the fanfare music of drums and trumpets. And always, the heart-clenching fear that it would, quite literally, rain on our parade, and that the fireworks would have to be canceled.

But, to my knowledge, there is no special food tradition associated with the 14 juillet. This is not so surprising, considering that the original events of 1789 were initiated in great part because the French people was suffering a terrible famine, while the aristocracy held fantastic feasts in the privacy of their castles.

It isn’t really customary either to wish anyone a happy 14th of July, like one might at Christmas (Joyeux Noël) or Easter (Joyeuses Pâques), but I like well wishes and would like to extend that one to you: Joyeux 14 Juillet!

  • max

    The LA Times food section is devoted to Bastille Day today, and Alain Giraud came up with the perfect dish: alouettes sans tête.

  • Hi Clotilde,

    If you do so, I, too, will do so!

    Happy 14th of July to you, too! :-)

  • interesting, about the appellation of Bastille Day–the U.S.’s Independence Day is usually just the Fourth of July, too. I had never thought about it before.

    (And we haven’t any food tradition, either. How very odd.)

    Anyway, I’ve just found your journal relatively recently and am really enjoying it. Keep up the good work!

  • Laurel–

    We sort of have a food tradition for the Fourth of July, don’t we? It seems like everyone I know enjoys grilling out on the Fourth. Granted, people make different grilled things, but steak, hot dogs, and brats are pretty common.

    Every year, I try to get those around me to listen to the Declaration of Independence. I think people forget the meaning of the holiday, lost as they are in beer, meat, and fireworks. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve found people that would listen though. :)

  • Alain–

    That would have been my name, if I’d been a boy.

    And, good points, but since I’m vegetarian they didn’t occur to me at all! :] I guess that’s true, though. Barbecue, beer, and fireworks. Hmm. :/

  • Caroline

    My office is quite international and we’re trying to celebrate all national holidays. People from the celebrated country are bringing special dishes (and drinks!)normally eaten on that day and set up a little buffet in the garden during lunch time.
    Yesterday was our turn (we are 5 French people) and I could not think of a special dish we eat on 14 juillet. I’m glad to read I’m not the only one !

  • Clotilde, I have always heard that it wasn’t the prisoners (who were mostly noble) that spurred the peasants to take the Bastille but the fact that they stored fire-arms there. I guess that fits in well with the fireworks!

    I asked my colleagues on Tuesday about special dishes for the 14th and none of them could come up with one either!

    As for the US, when I was little the typical dish for the 4th of July was a red, white and blue Jello, with Dream Whip or whipped cream for the white bit!

  • The Swiss national day is coming up on August 1 and there will be fireworks displays in many villages and towns in Ticino and elsewhere. I think foodwise it’s pretty simple here – anything that fills up a lot of people in the shortest amount of time! In this region, I’ll be expecting lughanigetta, bratwurst, osso bucchi, rabbit, accompanied by mounds of polenta and washed down with Ticinese merlot. Then dancing, then fireworks over the various lakes.

    Thanks for the lovely reminder of the celebrations to come with your Bastille Day post! Maybe you should invent some new dish in honour of it, who knows, with the fame of C&Z, it could very well go down as THE Bastille Day dish! :)

  • madeleine

    hey guyzz
    wats up?
    i am from france and on bastille day we eat
    le Guorrnae a Bouvaie… a delicious dish. it involves eggplant, tuna, and egg. I would be happy to send anyone the recipie if they would like to try it!

  • Thanks for all your well wishes, hope you had a great Bastille day, enjoying not-particularly-Bastille-day food! :)

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