Monday, May 11, 2009

Le Barbecue

Who doesn't love a good barbecue? You really can't go wrong with the tangy smell of the grill, a cold beer in your hand, and hours of lawn games with your friends. After what seemed like 40 days and 40 nights of rain, DC was blessed with a beautiful weekend. So, under sunny skies and with the forecast set to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 Celsius) I gladly accepted an invitation to an acquaintance's post-wedding cookout. And though relaxing while cooking food over an open flame is by no means practiced exclusively in the United States, I think going to barbecues "like back home" is one of the things Americans sometimes find themselves missing while overseas. Or maybe it's just me.

Sure, I went to a handful of barbecues in France, which were largely similar to their American counterparts, but there were still a few glaring differences. For example, you'll most likely find beer at a French bbq, but you'll also find the obligatory bottles of red and white wine. Maybe I lived a sheltered life, but a fine Bordeaux was not something my Midwestern family brought to the backyard cookout. I never once saw hamburgers at a French bbq. Instead, you're guaranteed to find merguez on the grill. I loved putting that spicy, North African sausage on a big chunk of baguette with tons of ketchup. My French friends liked mustard. Dijon, not yellow, merci beaucoup. As for lawn games, I showed some guys how to throw a rugby ball like you would an American football once or twice, but that was about it.

There's one thing that seems to be true no matter where you grill: "barbecue" is synonymous with "pigging out." In general, the French tend to be more reasonable with their portion sizes than Americans, but that distinction wasn't terribly visible at the backyard (or rooftop!) cookouts I attended in France. I guess if you put a bunch of people around an open flame on a warm summer day all bets are off. Yesterday's bbq definitely upheld the tradition of abundance with piles of grilled meat, all manner of grilled vegetables, two forms of potato salad, and multiple delectable cherry pies. Attendees drank beer and played lawn games, with nary a baguette in sight. A true like back home barbecue.


Zhu said...

I love merguez - it doesn't exist in North America, does it? Never seen any in Canada... maybe it's a different name. Took me a while to realize that "boudin" was "blood sausage" -- didn't sound so good in English!

Tanya said...

The only place I've seen merguez in the U.S. was two weekends ago at Whole Foods. I picked some up and it was actually pretty good! Never saw it again, though :-( And I had never even heard of it before living in France.