Last week it was La Fête d’Ail (the Garlic festival) in Lautrec; Tomorrow–La Fête du Pain (the Bread festival).
The French fill their summers with fêtes.
In 1954 Dad took me to the Everyman Cinema in Hampstead to see Jacques Tati’s Jour de Fete (viewable here free).
In pre-Monsieur Hulot mode, Tati plays the good-hearted but accident-prone village postman.
Two bits stayed with me: the flag pole sequence (which starts about 12 mins in) and the bicycle race–when he gets tangled up in a mini Tour de France and ends up in a river (about 1hr 10min in).
Now maybe not quite so hilarious but at the time I nearly choked, I laughed so much–(and bonded with Dad)!
Last week (it’s always held on the first Friday in August) ten thousand people teemed–albeit slowly–through the narrow streets of Lautrec, buying local produce and aiming for the central square where la soupe à l’ail (garlic soup) is dispensed free at noon–with a glass of warm rosé.
This is after the much anticipated announcement of the winners of the best tress
and the most imaginative object made of garlic.
The pink garlic–l’ail rose de Lautrec–is specially good and long lasting.
It has protected status and a lovely pinkish hue on the outside skin.
Not long after buying our house here, we took some to California where Meredith’s brother–in-law planted some cloves and ended up winning first prize in the Marin County Fair!
We told the story to the farmer in the next hamlet, thinking he might be amused.
After a long pause and looking like thunder, he growled—“c’est interdit!” (that’s forbidden!).
He needn’t have worried–the different soil composition in California–turned the garlic white!