I know, I know, I know. You can still smell the sulfur from the 4th of July or Canada Day. You are in no mood for celebrating any more independence. But those wacky folks in France want you to continue the party and help them celebrate their independence from absolutism. So download some Piaf, pour a glass of Pastis, and pull out the moules frites. It’s time to celebrate Bastille Day. Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.
While eating those moules frites in celebration, you can scream “joyeux jour de la Bastille” if you must. Just don’t scream it in France. They’ll look at you like you’re bonkers. In France they don’t celebrate Bastille Day, they celebrate Le quatorze juillet. They’re very picky about the moniker too. It’s not at all like the USA where we say Independence Day and/or the 4th of July. Le quatorze juillet, c’est ça.
It seems that Bastille Day is an American holiday, a bit like Cinco de Mayo. Only the French (unlike most Mexicans) actually do celebrate the day. They just don’t call it Bastille Day in any language. That name is all ours and I choose to celebrate it with moules frites.
If you’re still wondering what the party is all about. Let me enlighten you.
Most folks think that Le quatorze juillet (Bastille Day) is the day the French throw a party celebrating their independence from tyranny– symbolically marked by the beheading of Louis XVI. But that’s not entirely true. Louis was beheaded in janvier (January), not juillet (July). The death of the king in 1793 marks the end of the French Revolution (and technically their independence). However, Le quatorze juillet marks the day in 1789 when ordinary people stormed a state prison known as the Bastille (one of many acts of defiance that marked that turbulent time in France). Though not technically the day they gained independence, Le quatorze juillet has come to represent the symbolic first step towards French independence from its monarchy. Besides, the French like their holidays and know how to throw a party. Juillet (July) is a much nicer time to throw a party. The weather is better… The summer produce is here… etc.
Arrogant Frog Chardonnay Viognier (Ribet White)
Pairs well with Most seafood and fish dishes including sushi. White meats, blue cheeses, and fruit desserts.
The only bummer about moving the fête from winter to summer is that pesky “R” rule. The one that says you can only eat shellfish in months that contain the letter ‘R’. Does that mean no moules frites in July?
Well phooey to that. Exactly when and where the ‘R’ rule first appeared (c. 1700’s) is a bit of a debate; but historically, for health and conservation practices, it was thought best to refrain from eating shellfish during warm water months. During the warmer months, as ocean temperatures rise, shellfish naturally tend to spawn or reproduce. For conservation practices, wild shellfish were not harvested during the spawning seasons. In this same era (c. 1700–1800’s, pre-refrigeration) it was dangerous to ship and, ultimately consume, shellfish that sat out in the heat.
Now, thanks to sustainable farming practices, strict water quality monitoring, and advanced wet storage techniques it’s safe to consume farmed oysters and shellfish all year long. Of course, choose your shellfish carefully. When it comes to mussels look for shiny shells that smell pleasantly of the deep sea– the vast majority should be tightly closed. Avoid any that smell ‘fishy’, look dry, or are mostly open. Ask your fishmonger for help if you prefer.
“Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, Moules Frites. Happy Bastille Day. GREG