On June 29th 1880 the French senate passed the law to declare the 14th of July a national holiday to commemorate French Independence Day called Bastille Day. It was named as such because it celebrates the storming of the Bastille, the famous prison, in 1789 during the French Revolution. The taking of the prison marked the turning point of the movement in its effort to replace a two-person government under a King with a representative government, and is considered to be the birth of the République Française.
Since then the celebrations have become elaborate with military and other parade balls and dances such as Le Bal Musette.
During the 19th Century these dance forms became popular as people looked for faster and more sensual dance steps that could be danced in spaces much smaller than large public dancehalls. The dances themselves consisted of 4 main variations: tango musette, pasodoble musette and waltz musette also known as “la toupie” the top (where dancers get very close and turn around themselves like tops) and lastly the original musette dance “java”.
During Bastille Day many Bal Musette take place on dance platforms in public squares or tents. The music is played on the accordion and sometime still on the original musette a cabrette or bellows-blown bagpipe. And much delicious food is served with copious amounts of local wine.
For me, being an American/French expatriate living in Germany, my Bastille celebrations are marked more by memories of my adored French Grandmaman Henriette, my French Papa and his long history of teaching the French language and culture to American students, gladiolas which I always associate with France in the summer and a nice traditional French dish.
After the sun rose this morning in a Bastille-like sky this morning I opted for a simple and deliciously uncomplicated warm lunch of escargot (snail) ragout accompanied by crusty baguette and a green salad with tarragon vinaigrette. You can use either a large can of smaller Achatine snails (from Indonesia) or the traditional larger snails from Bourgogne depending on your preference and the amount of ragout you want to make. Since we ate this as our lunch we chose the larger portion of smaller Achatine snails which gave us 2 dozen each – I know decadent but delicious and it is a holiday after all. You can use the bigger ones from Burgundy or divide the snails amongst more people as an appetizer.
Lunch for 2 or appetizer for 4
- Snails – either 1 can small snails from Achatine w 4 dozen or 1 can Duc de Bourgogne with 2 dozen large snails
- 1 large “meaty” tomato
- 1 shallot
- 100 grams of herbed garlic butter – packaged or homemade
Putting it all together:
Remove the snails from the can discarding the liquid – rinse in a sieve and let drip.
In the meanwhile preheat the oven to 425°F/200° C.
Wash and chop each tomato half separately – peel and slice the shallot in half and finely slice the halves separately.
Divide the snails amongst two (or four) small ceramic baking dishes or casseroles. Sprinkle each with a half of the tomato pieces and shallot slices. Mix with a spoon.
Divide the herbed garlic butter in half (or quarters), slice the butter into 4 or 5 slices and lay the slices on top of the escargots, tomatoes and shallots.
Place in the middle of the oven. Bake 8 minutes, then stir and grill for 5 minutes more making sure the butter doesn’t burn.
Remove carefully from the oven – very hot!! And serve with bib lettuce mixed with a strong tarragon vinaigrette made with both tarragon mustard and tarragon vinegar, some chilled dry white wine and crusty baguette.
Délicieux! Allons enfants de la Patrie, le jour de gloire est arrivé!