French people are sometimes viewed by foreigners as being overly stuck up, pinched, coincés, as the French would say - and when you have a word for it, it must be true... right?
I understand where the stereotype comes from; Parisians, for all their virtues, are not the smiliest bunch, especially in comparison to the Americans who are often casting aspersions. But it's not a fair judgement to make, especially when one considers the residents of the south of France, who are willing and ready to throw a party at a moment's notice, whatever the reason. At least, that's the impression I got at the annual Fête de l'Abricot in Rivesaltes.
Apricots are everywhere in July in the south, with giant crates being sold on the side of the road at ridiculously low prices. People stock up and head home to make jam, so that apricot season can last them all year. But when it's finally time, once again, for the soft fruit to be eaten out of hand with reckless abandon, the good people of Rivesaltes throw a party.
The mid-July Fête de l'Abricot combines the very best of farmer's markets, county fairs and barbecues. Stalls pop up selling homemade jams and pies; grillmasters prepare sausages in half-baguettes and plastic cups of local wine and Abricotade -- a drink made of sweet white wine and apricots. I grab a sandwich and join the assembly of people positioned before a platform, waiting for I'm not quite sure what to transpire.
People slowly begin to fill the dozen-or-so seats in front of a giant table, and an emcee stands before them. Crates of apricots are loaded onto the stage. Oh... I see.
The Fête de l'Abricot's version of a hot-dog eating contest involves the contestants ingesting as many apricots as they can in ninety seconds. When the winner stands, he is weighed... and given his weight in apricots as a prize.
Apricots are lovely eaten out of hand, but one can only eat so many before the urge to make other apricot-flavored treats arrives. Apricot jam is easy to buy and nearly as easy to make: Confisuc, a brand of special sugar for the making of jam, is sold in grocery stores in a pink 1-kilo bag. An equal weight of fruit is cooked with the sugar for just shy of 10 minutes, and voilà, your very own homemade jam. And the primary ingredient in apricot jam tart.
Recipe: Apricot Jam Tart
- 2 pâtes brisées (you can make your own crust, but the storebought ones, available in every supermarket, are made with pure butter (pûr beurre) and are an excellent time-saving tool)
- 1 cup apricot jam (homemade or good quality storebought)
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Farenheit (176 degrees Celsius).
- Arrange one of your pâtes brisées in the bottom of a pie dish. Use a fork to poke holes all over the bottom. Cover the pâte with greased aluminum foil, and place pie weights or dried beans on top. Bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove the pâte from the oven and dispose of the foil. Spread jam over the top of the crust.
- Cut the second pâte brisée into 1/2 inch strips. Place them over the top of the jam layer in a criss-cross pattern. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool before eating; the jam stays hot and runny for a very long time.
Preparation time: 5 minute(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6
Emily Monaco is native New Yorker, living and writing in Paris since 2007. She loves discovering new places and, of course, their local cuisines! Read about her adventures in food and travel at tomatokumato.com or follow her on Twitter at @emiglia