If you're unfamiliar--Bastille Day is a major historical milestone for France. The storming of the bastille (a fortress in Paris that housed political prisoners) on July 14th, 1789 was the “shot heard round the world” in terms of the beginning of the French Revolution. Dig further into the history here. The French Revolution sought to uproot a centuries-old political system, including the monarchy... so this was a kind of a big deal. Fun fact about King Louis XVI: His love of food was eventually what got him captured during the French Revolution. Whoops.
Now, if you're a food enthusiast--French or not--you'll likely agree that the culinary groundwork laid by the French over the years is très magnifique. And like all significant political and cultural holidays that aren't our own, Americans have taken Bastille Day as an opportunity to "celebrate" for the hell of it and eat our interpretations of the food native to the country that has meaningful cause to recognize this day in history. It's all in good spirit. If nothing else, a globally recognized French holiday seems as good a day as ever to pay thanks to the glorious food gifts France has given us.
One of my favorite food ladies ever, Julia Child, was the well-known host of the television show The French Chef, a 30-minute cooking broadcast that ran from 1963-1973. While Child was not of French dissent herself, after living, learning, and falling in love with cuisine in France--she worked to bring French technique and classic recipes to American home cooks in an approachable manner. It was this focus on French food that made her famous, sharing recipes like French Onion Soup and Bouillabaisse a la Marseillaise (a fish stew) with the masses.
If we're talking French cuisine and you are a Pixar lover (or have a child under the age of 12), perhaps the movie Ratatouille comes to mind. The film follows the professional trajectory of Remy, a little rat with a massive love for food--and not just any food from the dumpster, but good food. What's a rat with sophisticated taste to do? Learn to cook, duh. And so he does. With the stunning backdrop of Paris, the movie soars as a tribute to French eats.
The cartoon rodent's namesake is actually a very popular Provençal dish with origins in southeastern France (a region called Provence). This dish is loaded with hearty veggies and has been adapted into countless variations, like this one here:
And while French cuisine may seem to require an intimidating level of culinary skill, enjoying the nation's famous food culture is something that is totally attainable right in your own kitchen. Just start with simple, classic recipes such as crepes, a basic quiche, or french onion soup.
And of course, for the quintessential French cafe experience, it doesn't get much better than a luscious french omelet.
If the extent of your French cuisine knowledge rests at french toast or french fries, you're missing out and probably confused about what foods actually come from France. I encourage you to broaden your horizons and celebrate this Bastille day with a spread of fabulous French recipes. Try a new dish--anything from crème brûlée to bistro standbys such as the croque monsiuer. And of course, you can always follow my route and check out some of Julia's episodes of The French Chef to get the inspiration flowing
"In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport."
- Julia Child