A wedding reception is one of most important events that you may want to cater for yourself. So after all the hard work of writing A Banquet on a Budget I thought it would be fun to ask my friend food writer and food stylist, Louise Pickford who lives in south west France with her photographer husband Ian Wallace, to write a guest blog for me all about French weddings.
A French wedding, be it a grandiose affair or a simple family gathering, is as much about the feast as the wedding ceremony itself. In fact, the ancient tradition of giving blessings originated in France, where a morsel of ‘toast’ was dropped into the couple’s wine, symbolizing good health and longevity. The happy couple would raise their glasses in acknowledgment of this and the whole ‘toasting to’ success began.
Although the type of dishes served will vary regionally one thing is shared and that is the serving of great wines and great food. Champagne is a given and usually plenty is on offer. Different wines will be served with each course, and again these are often local wines from the area.
The majority of weddings in France cover many hours of eating, drinking and dancing based around a 5-6 course gourmet meal. A formal dinner begins before being seated with hors d’houevres such as escargots, oysters or small quiches accompanied by Champagne. This is followed by appetizers served ‘a table’ and could be foie gras accompanied by a sweet wine such as Monbazillac (from Bordeaux). Next comes a palette cleanser, often a fruit sorbet which may be apple (Normandy) or raspberry (the south) or another locally grown fruit.
The Mains Course
The main meal will be a regional delicacy such as duck in Normandy, beef in Limousin or the Auvergne or a spit roast wild boar in the South of France. The main meal is always accompanied by a good red wine. Accompaniments are served after the meat course rather than alongside and would be a potato dish such as dauphinois and perhaps a simply cooked vegetable. A salad could be served after this.
Cheese is a huge part of French culture and is served as a separate course before dessert. Again the cheeses on offer are likely to be local cheeses although no doubt, depending on the class of wedding, a cheese board could be a simple affair of one or two cheeses to a selection of the best cheeses from the whole of France. At this point cognac, brandy or eau de vie is served.
The French dessert or ‘wedding cake’ is one bound in tradition and can be traced back to the middle ages. All the guests would have brought a small cake as a symbol of the couples love. These small cakes were piled high on the table and the bride and groom had to kiss over the pile without knocking any over, signifying a happy and prosperous marriage. Today the croquombouche is a pyramid of puff pastry balls (choux balls) filled with cream and drizzled with caramel sauce.
Once all the eating is done, drinking and dancing often continues long into the night until the guests gather around the bride and grooms home (or accommodation for the night) and bang pots and pans (known as Chiverie) signifying the time to leave the couple to begin their life together.
More about Louise
After working in London and Sydney as a successful food writer and food stylist Louise and her photographer husband moved to south west France. Here they continue working together producing magazine features and cook books for their International clients. Since moving to France Louise has started blogging about her work and life in France and showcases what drives her in her love of simple, honest food and how by using a few carefully chosen props, the recipes remain inspirational and yet achievable. With this in mind Louise has also started to develop her love of ceramics and is slowly producing a range of her own, designed to complement her style of cooking and eating. For more about Louise and Ian check out their blog here.