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.