Monday, July 14, 2008

Bastille Day Special Post

I nearly forgot that today is Bastille Day, specifically when the Bastille was stormed on 14 July, 1789, but in general just to celebrate independence from the French monarchy (temporarily, at least, until Napoleon crowned himself emperor in 1804, and the French political system has floated between autocracy, monarchy, democracy, socialism, fascism (under the Nazis), and whatever else I'm not remembering. Not my point in today's post. Let's get to the food!

There doesn't seem to be a traditional food for Bastille Day (at least, not that I can find, maybe some of you know something?) like there is the king cake for Epiphany (where there are little king and queen figurines baked into the cake and if you find one you're supposed to kiss the person who got the other. I once got two of them, so I guess I should've kissed myself?). So I'm just going to discuss foods that have "French" in the title, just for the hell of it.

French Fries - in fact, these were invented in Belgium (though definitive evidence hasn't been presented). In France they're called pommes frites (or just frites for short), which is literally "fried potatoes."

French Bread - yes, this is in fact French (baguette). One site I visited claimed the French took and adapted the Viennese method of using steam in making bread (which is what causes the air bubbles inside). Another of my favorites kinds of French bread is Fougasse, which is a fisherman's bread from southern France (though the version I had didn't have spices on it).

French Toast - Nobody really knows exactly where this originated, since it's been around since Medieval times. There's a story that it used to be called German Toast and then the name changed during WW2 because of anti-German sentiment. But they have records back to the 1800s with French Toast mentions. In France and Belgium, it's called "lost bread" (pain perdu) because it was usually made with stale bread as a way to soften it enough to be edible.

French Vanilla
- actually, not a type of vanilla at all. In fact refers to a preparation with a strong vanilla aroma and containing vanilla grains. It originates from the French custom of making ice cream custard base with vanilla seed pods, cream and egg yolks.

French Dressing - US French dressing is entirely different than what the French normally use on their salads. US French dressing has sugar and ketchup in it (also called Catalina). Possibly apocryphal, but this may be an invention of the wife of Lucius French, a founder of Hazleton, IN. The dressing used in France is more of a vinaigrette, which has no standard form but often contains olive oil, vinegar/lemon juice, salt, pepper, mustard, garlic and sugar.

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