As any true Francophile will tell you, the official motto of France, Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood), became an integral part of the country's heritage during the French Revolution. Their national holiday—formally called la Fête nationale, The National Celebration, known as Bastille Day—commemorates the July 14, 1789, storming of the Bastille, a turning point in France's history.
The French continue their love of freedom, as evident in their joie de vivre (the enjoyment of life). Whether it's their wonderful cuisine, world-famous wines or love of literary masterpieces, they totally embrace their culture and heritage. This short list provides just a few current and contemporary classics for you to enjoy.
Authors Stephanie Henaut and Jeni Mitchell present food and wine as a journey, tracing French history and culture in A Bite-sized History of France: Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War and Enlightenment. From the Roman and Ottoman times through the present, this work provides a feast for the table and the mind.
In The Food and Wine of France: Eating and Drinking from Champagne to Provence, influential food writer Edward Behr introduces you to some of the best of France's culinary scene, inspired by local artisans. There is none better than the traditional recipes from this country's diverse regions.
French Milk by Chicagoan Lucy Knisley is a delightful memoir about a mother and daughter's trip to Paris as they both celebrate milestone birthdays. This personal travel journal filled with illustrations and photographs, is a must-read for those who have visited Paris or are planning a trip to the City of Light.
Voted the best book published in 20th century France, the endearing classic The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery has been translated into 300 languages and dialects, and continues to be a worldwide bestseller since its first publication in 1943. In 1944, Saint-Exupery's Lockheed P-38 vanished over the Mediterranean during a World War II reconnaissance mission. His plane was never found. However, you can learn how a fisherman's chance discovery of a bracelet led to the discovery of Saint-Exupery's plane and his fate in this BBC video, The mystery of the famous lost author.
Monsieur Mediocre: One American Learns the High Art of Being Everyday French by John von Sothen is a funny and touching memoir. Von Sothen marries a French woman he met in Brooklyn, immigrates to Paris and writes about his experiences with French culture and everyday customs.
Want to learn more about French history and culture? Check out Jason's blog post, Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.
Looking to celebrate France's amazing heritage? Vous êtes cordialment invite! (You are cordially invited!) Alliance Française de Chicago provides a listing of events in the Chicago area, including Bastille Day Chicago on July 13 at Navy Pier.