For some people, life in France is a series of long lunches. Me, I could map out my life here in terms of long tables and pamplemousse rosé.
For it’s surprising how many events in rural France culminate in a casse-croute. This, according to the dictionary, is a ‘snack.’ In reality, it usually means a large scale (usually indoor) picnic, seated at long trestle tables. The format is nearly always the same, commencing with a pink aperitif - either a kir or a pamplemousse rosé, a mix of grapefruit juice and rosé wine. (It might not sound too appealing, but it’s surprising how quickly a jug can slip down, assuming that it’s not your turn to drive.) This is typically followed by bowls of crisps, baguettes, a selection of charcuterie, cheese and dessert (usually apple tart.)
I have attended night markets in the summer, Halloween parties, music festivals and line dancing events too numerous to mention, all of which culminated in a variation of the above. Sometimes, a casse-croute can take you by surprise. At the end of a night walk in a nearby village last summer for example, we were ushered into the salle des fetes for a four course meal at midnight. (This having stopped twice during the walk itself to enjoy refreshments served at trestle tables hastily assembled in the dark.) And quite often, at the end of line dancing class on a Monday evening, someone will whip out a few trestle tables and produce cake and cider to celebrate a birthday.
These casse-croutes are never very fancy but they're usually put together with an enormous amount of good will. And so it was on Saturday evening - a soirée de danse country in a nearby village, where the volunteers had really pulled out all the stops, even importing giant hay bales for a degree of authenticity. As the best dressed cowboy competition (yes really!) commenced, I couldn’t help thinking of the disconnect between this and my former life.
For on the very same evening, a very glamorous Fendi party was taking place on the Avenue Montaigne in Paris. Once upon a time, I would have been there, Prada'd and baubled up to the nines, sipping champagne and nibbling posh canapés. But surrounded by familiar faces at the obligatory trestle table, in the overly lit salle des fetes sipping pamplemousse rosé from a plastic cup, I wouldn't have been anywhere else for the world.