Partying French Style

Repas champêtre

Repas champêtre

As in previous years, the group involved in restoring the chapel at Teysseroles held their own party as a pat on the back for another successful fête. Last night, 20 of us turned up chez Simone and Jean-Claude, who have a large garden and plenty of shelter should we need it.

In the event, because of this week’s canicule (heatwave) we stayed outside until about 1 a.m. The party was billed to start at 19h00. However, well aware that nothing starts on time in France and having waited a couple of hours last year for everyone to arrive, we allowed an extra petite demi-heure.

The company included two priests and a monk: Père Serge, the local parish priest; Frère Jacques, from the same religious order; and Père Jacques, a priest based in Senegal, who comes every couple of years to give Père Serge a break from his pastoral duties. Far from being a damper on proceedings, they provided the butt of many a joke and played along with good humour. I can’t help reflecting that things might be a bit different in England if you invited the vicar.

Opening the champagne

Opening the champagne

First off was champagne, courtesy of Annette and (another) Jean-Claude, who recently became grandparents for the second time. Then we all moved to a long trestle table, where in typical French style we used the same plate, cutlery and glass throughout the meal. Starters were a selection of salads eaten with crusty bread.

Enjoying the evening sun

Enjoying the evening sun

Table for 20

Table for 20

During this time, host Jean-Claude was operating the barbecue, where several metres of saucisse à griller were sizzling away. He also came in for some ribbing for allowing the barbecue almost to go out. He was christened Monsieur R, the name of the man who cooked the grillades at the Teysseroles fête and who proved to be the weak link in the chain for the second year running. Alternative plans for next year are in the offing.

Barbecue blazing merrily

Barbecue blazing merrily

Fortunately, Jean-Claude’s barbecuing skills turned out to be more reliable than Monsieur R’s, so we tucked into nicely-browned sausage, served with salad. After that, came delicious cheeses, including one I had never tried before – Maroilles. In the shape of a bishop’s mitre and with a red rind, it both smells and tastes pungent. But the SF and I love strong cheeses – one of the pleasures of France.

Sizzling saucisse

Sizzling saucisse

Several people had brought desserts, including a crumble, an apricot tart, a fruit salad, cake and peaches. Starting to feel as if we would never eat again, we drank hot, black coffee, laced with vieille prune or some strange juniper liqueur that someone had contributed.

The priests left around midnight because of christenings and marriages they had to perform the next day. The rest of us stayed, quipping about a group visit to Senegal and twinning Teysseroles with Père Jacques’ Senegal parish. This one is going to run and run.

The Teysseroles fête has also been immortalised in an interview I did with The Connexion, an English-language newspaper published in France. If you happen to get the August edition, turn to page 6 of Connexion 2 (the culture section), where an article appears about Brits who get involved in organising local fêtes.

Copyright © 2013 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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10 Responses to Partying French Style

  1. Sue Whatmough says:

    It looks as though you had a great time. I really miss these occasions – I used to attend quite a few such fêtes and celebrations in my early days of living in France. Now, as a vegan, it’s no longer my thing. Never mind, my choice. Wrong country for such dietary preferences, perhaps we should move to Southern India!

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    • nessafrance says:

      It’s good to feel part of a group like this and we rarely feel like foreigners – although, of course, there’s the odd bit of ribbing. Being a vegan, you would find it rather difficult in France. As you say, Southern India would be more congenial in that respect. But maybe not in others.

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  2. Kate Swaffer says:

    Well done to you and all Vanessa, and thank you for the wonderful write up and photographs. Events like this bring back to life the hard work of a joint venture, and the food, wine and frivolity usually ensure future projects are in the pipeline! I think Australians would faint at the thought of waiting for everyone to arrive before that first glass of vino!!!

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  3. Evelyn says:

    Sounds as if you had a really wonderful evening…a well-deserved one for all your hard work on the chapel.

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    • nessafrance says:

      It was a great evening and a nice bunch of people. We come in for our fair share of ribbing for being foreigners but we still feel part of the gang.

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  4. MELewis says:

    The problem I always have with the lateness is the extra aperos you tend to consume while waiting! Very elegantly set table, by the way, for a fête champêtre.

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    • nessafrance says:

      Round here, the French don’t serve the aperos until all the guest have turned up. We have had to wait a long time on occasion. I don’t know what’s worse – drinking too many or not getting any until 9 pm!

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  5. Sounds and looks like a wonderful evening. Had to smile about waiting the petite demie heure – I wonder how many times I’ve done that during my seven years here!

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    • nessafrance says:

      The problem is that the French won’t serve drinks until everyone has arrived so we had to wait two hours last year! This year, everyone was under a three-line whip to turn up at a reasonable time – which meant half an hour late!

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