Bastille Day 2006 Redux

Sunday, July 16th, 2006 | All Things, Events

Although Friday July 14 was Bastille Day, the French Institute Alliance Française (FI: AF) held its annual fête on Sunday afternoon, July 16, this year.

The French Institute and the Alliance Française de New York (Nouveau York?) originally operated as two separate organizations, but merged in 1971 to form the largest Alliance Française in the United States; their Haskell Library is the most comprehensive private collection of French volumes in the nation.

Bastille Day

No waiter races this year, but there was plenty of good, French fun to be had. We arrived in time for the “Fun with French” comedy/musical performance of stripe-shirted Jacques and Marie. The stands lining East 60th Street offered crepes, creme brulée, eclairs and vichyssoise – somewhat classier that the standard street fair fare of sausage and peppers and deep fried funnel cakes.

Children gathered at the (ineffectually sloped) sand pit for rounds of pétanque — the French version of bocce.


While the American origins of vichyssoise have been debated by culinary historians, its creation is generally attributed to French chef Louis Diat, who created the soup for the opening of the Ritz-Carlton rooftop restaurant in New York City. In his 1961 “Gourmet’s Basic French Cookbook,” Diat recounted that as a child in France, his maman would serve him warm leek and potato soup for breakfast, which she would sometimes cool with milk. So while Diat was certainly not the first to combine leeks, potatoes and cream in a soup, he added the innovation of serving it chilled, and dubbing it with its current name, after his birth town, Vichy.

Interestingly, the quintessential French dish coq au vin was, according to popular myth, invented by an Italian. Sort of. The legend goes that when Caesar conquered the Gauls, the inhabitants of the area – now modern day France – presented him with an old rooster as a sarcastic tribute. Instead of being galled at their impudence, Caesar ordered his chef to stew the tough bird in wine and served it to the Gauls for dinner. In urban dictionary parlance, this would be known as “flipping the script.” Or the bird. Nowadays, of course, the dish is almost always prepared using a poule/chicken instead of an old coq/cock.


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I indulged in some overpriced but refreshing lemonade (rather: citron pressé) at the fair, unwittingly opting to pay the 50% premium for quality. Hours later, in the much needed oasis of air-conditioned cool at the TimeWarner Center, I paid for more quality lemonade from Bouchon Bakery.

La chair est triste, hélas! et j’ai lu tous les livres. (Alas, the flesh is weary, and I have read all the books.)
– Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898)

There's 1 comment so far ... Bastille Day 2006 Redux

July 24, 2006

I always learn something when I read your ‘blog.

Go for it ...