Adolescence in the Old World Part II

Saturday Evening (cont’d)
In honour of the 17th Birthday party, the salles des fetes is festively decorated with lots of little crepe paper flowers that the grandmere has made by hand, and large artistic banners painted by the mother.

A huge industrial sized pot of boeuf bourgignon, an ideal dish for serving large numbers of guests, is simmering on the stove in the kitchen area, and the gratin dauphinois is sitting on the counter, all ready to go in the oven when the time is right.

The father (a winemaker) drops off a huge shipment of unlabeled bottles of red and white wine – the family always drinks the unlabeled bottles at home or when with friends – but inside the non-descript green glass premier and grand cru wine awaits the teenage guests.

7:30 or so

The friends start to arrive, and the new arrivals have to kiss everyone on the cheek and / or shake hands to say bonjour. Although this can talk up to 20 minutes for the last arrivals, no teenager would ever consider forgoing this essential act of politesse.

The aperitif is served and the teenagers all swirl the wine around in their glasses and taste it with enviable technique (probably because they have been doing this since they were in high chairs). They debate the merits and faults of the wine, and may just have a fun little game of guessing the exact appellation and cru.

They all sit down and are served by the mother, grandmother, and assorted aunts and family friends, and eat the delicious home-cooked courses, each of which is accompanied by the perfect choice from the family’s wine cellar. The evening goes very late, until around 3:00 or 4:00 am and may include music and dancing. In any case, the party invariably involves lots of animated conversations around the table. There is nothing Burgundians like better, and they start young.


On Sunday the French teenager, much like his / her Canadian counterpart, will probably sleep in. However, luckily for him / her very good wine doesn’t tend to give bad hangovers, unlike an overindulgence in Molson Extras or, god forbid, Bacardi Breezers.

In any case the french teenager will be expected to be up, dressed, and at the table for the big family lunch that happens on most Sundays and reunites anywhere from 10 to 30 members of the family.

An excellent multi-course meal will be served, perhaps including things such as escargots and coq au vin, and of course wine will be served along with each course as well.

The “lunch” will run from 12:00 or so until 5:00 or 6:00 in the afternoon / evening, at which time the French teenager would go upstairs, maybe do a bit of last minute homework, chew on his / her pencil and consider what to do next Saturday night.

It’s nice to know that certain things remain constant whether one grows up in the New World or the Old…