Sunday, July 5, 2009

Joyeuse fête du Quatre Juillet!

Our landlords, the Bérards, have been such gracious hosts that Mary Ann and I decided to treat them to an American style 4th of July barbeque. This first involved finding all of the right ingredients in the hypermarché. Hamburgers and buns were easy enough, although options were limited. We discovered that the French prefer much fattier ground beef - up to 20% fat.

I also endeavored to bake some zucchini bread with zucchini straight from our landlord's garden. This precipitated an epic search for baking powder and baking soda. We finally found our ingredients after learning the French words, literally translated as chemical yeast and sodium bicorbonate, respectively. After that, I still had to go to a fourth store upon realizing that none of the zucchini in the garden were ready to be picked.

All sit-down meals in France are expected to come in courses. Our first course included potato chips and watermellon. Barbeque flavor isn't quite the same over here. I should have gotten the hint when the bag showed a picture of a shish-kabob. André then cooked the corn and hamburgers on his wood-burning grill. It's not that they don't have gas and charcoal technology, André was able to get great flavor by adding aromatic wood and pinecones to the fire.

This was the first time that the Bérards had eaten corn-on-the-cob. At first, they weren't very sure about the etiquette. Mary Ann tried to explain that we sometimes use prongs inserted into the ends of the corn. Fortunately, they were tasty enough that everyone finished their serving. Desert course number one was my zucchini bread. This was also a new treat. It went over so well that I was asked for the recipe. I complied but quickly realized that we'd have to translate my short hand, the English to French, and the units of measurement. This made for good conversation, as we ate dessert course number 2, a vienette ice cream cake.

Throughout the meal, there was plenty of alcohol. I began with a couple of Kronenbourg ales, then had a continuously filled glass of locally grown rosé, and finished with a powerful digestif. This final nightcap was another home made concoction flavored with an herb grown in the Bérards' garden.

After enough alcohol, it was time to light the fireworks that we stumpled upon in the store. We had purchased the assortment pack, but were disappointed to find that most of the fireworks were just noise-makers and bottle rockets. I feel like our negotiation about which direction to point the bottle rockets was something like the missle defense treaty talks. A few successful launches lowered everyone's guard, so that the Bérards' 13-year old nephew was given a turn. He attempted to launch two at once from the same bottle. After lighting the fuse, he accidentally tipped over the bottle and we all scrambled to get out of line of fire in time. From that point on, we all decided that the sparklers would be the best way to celebrate the remainder of the night.

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