The Fourth of July is the birthday of America’s independence, and the French celebrate their commemoration of the birth of their modern nation on July 14th, Bastille Day – the day when the common folk of France stormed the fortress-prison the Bastille, which was a hallmark event of the French revolution. For French Americans or even just Francophiles, Bastille Day is a great event to celebrate, and what better way to do that than a French themed picnic or barbecue?
For invitations to your event, photocopied maps of Paris or pictures of French icons (the Champs Elysee, Notre Dame, the Seine, etc.) would be good.
For décor, bring out the red, white and blue – also France’s national colors. Tricolor flags, red-checked tablecloths and lots of flowers should decorate your space. Eiffel towers and fleur de lys are other motifs you can bring into play. And don’t forget the candles or lanterns for when the sun goes down.
Food is the central highlight of any get together, and you’ll want a good selection of French dishes available. For appetizers, you can’t go wrong with crusty baguettes with a few pates and rillettes, with cornichons and other pickles and hard boiled eggs alongside. For your main dishes, roasted chicken and quiche are good choices but for a real show-stopper, try a roasted leg or shoulder of lamb. Good side dishes are a French potato salad (with a vinaigrette dressing instead of mayonnaise based), mushrooms a la Grecque (mushrooms simmered in a reduced broth, then chilled), beet salad, artichokes with butter or ratatouille. Make sure you have plenty of red and white wine on the table in carafes – don’t worry about having stemmed wine glasses out – go low key and serve your drinks in short glass tumblers. And don’t forget dessert! Apple or berry tarts, macaroons or madeleines are all good choices.
If you can get your hands on a projector and screen (some office supply stores rent them), show a movie al fresco after the sun goes down – The Triplets of Belleville, or Amelie are good choices. Before dark, play some lawn games – boules is the French version of lawn bowling, and lots of fun.