After writing about Canada Day and Belgium’s Fête Nationale, I felt I should write a little something about my own national holiday. Le Quatorze Juillet is turning into a bit of a French Cinco de Mayo in the United States, with many Americans mistakingly thinking they are “independence days” for each countries and using them as an excuse to go out and get drunk, one with tequilla… the other with wine. Both holidays are named after the day and the month on which they fall. Cinco de Mayo means May 5th and Quatorze Juillet means 14th of July. Of course Cinco de Mayo is WAY easier to pronounce than Quatorze Juillet (KA-T-OARZ JWEE-YAY) and since it marks the anniversary of the 1789 storming of the Bastille prison, Bastille Day has taken over as its semi-official name abroad.
In France, Le Quatorze Juillet is traditionally celebrated with Bal des Pompiers, Bal Populaires and fireworks on evening of 13th, followed by the military parade down the Champs Elysees on the morning of 14th, a televised interview of the President, a garden party at the Presidential palace and of course fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. Around the globe, French embassies and consulates typically open their doors to the expat community, as well as a to French tourists who may be visiting, for a celebratory glass of champagne. Just wave your carte d’identité or your passport and you’re in! Every year, I look forward to catching up with friends in the gardens of the French Embassy while drinking bubbly and stuffing myself with French cheese and pâté. Oh, and Ricard typically has a table there too. A cold pastis on a hot and humid DC summer day hits all the right spots!
This year, as austerity waves are sweeping Europe, Nicolas Sarkozy decided to cancel the traditional Élysée garden party. Since I wasn’t going to be invited anyway, I think that’s perfectly fine not to spend $1 million on a swanky afternoon party. But sadly, part of the austerity measures also involved slashing the budget that Embassies and Consulates have to play with to plan their own garden parties. In Washington, D.C., this meant no macarons (le sigh), no plates of charcuterie but a lot more pâté. Luckily the Embassy staff got a little creative to make sure
their guests didn’t go home hungry and we were served merguez alongside our glasses of Mumm – the French one bien sûr… not the one from California 😉 I typically wouldn’t think to pair classy champagne with low-key merguez but since I do love my merguez, you did not hear me complain. Well, at least not about the food. I am French afterall. I obviously had to complain about something! If you’re not familiar with merguez, you’re missing out! A merguez is a spicy northern African lamb saussage, which, sandwiched inside a baguette is basically the French version of a hot dog. For some $5-$6, you can pick up a pack of merguez at Whole Foods. They may be labelled as merguez, or mergeza, I’ve seen it written both ways at my local store on P Street. Cook them on the grill like you would a hot dog saussage, insert inside a cut of baguette and voilà! you’ve got yourself a French-embassy worthy meal for less than $10. Now that’s revolutionary!