French Family Gathering: the Ultimate Cultural Experience

family
The vineyards of Costieres de Nimes

I started this trip with the intention to learn about cuisine through the lens of culture, history, its people and the terroir. I knew that coming here to France, I was going to get just that regardless of where I ended up. However, what is about the recount is one of the most special experiences I had with food, its people and culture.

A winemarker’s castle

My good friend’s family owned and ran a vineyard in the south of Nimes. At least twice a year, all his family and extended ones gather at his family’s vineyard for a big get together and catch up. This year was special because their grandparents were around from New Caledonia.

Upon arriving at his place, everyone was at the back of his place socialising. He introduced me to all of them one by one, when in France, took about an hour with 20 people. Everyone was very excited to meet me and attempted at their best English to converse with me. Immediately, drinks were offered along with food and all the refreshments. You knew that this was a farmer’s place as their pet horse was roaming around along with their pet goat, the vineyards just a stone’s throw away, bee hives hidden behind some bushes and huge mechanical farming machines parked at the side.

The whole family

The men went to set up the barbecue, the mom in apron went about refilling refreshment jugs, snacks and gathered the barbecue items, the younger kids ran about chasing each other and the older kids and adults stood around catching up with each other. I made my rounds chatting with everyone and trying to take everything in.

At one point, everyone sat down on the long table to eat the appetizers spread out on the table. Laughters and chatters filled the air as the food went around. Soon, delicious merguez and chicken sausages with mustard and mayo made their way around the table. At some point, even the horse joined in for the family meal. Then “fruits of the season” tart finished the incredible feast. Though simple, this was one of the best meals I’ve ever had, probably because it was with family.

The French Tradtion

No french family gathering is over without an epic game of petanque. With about 7 people on either teams, the entire match lasted for a couple of hours. Lots of laughter, taunting and jestering during the game made it even more fun and exciting. Of course, pastis was the main drink of the game. I never had a fun game of petanque like this.

Once almost everyone had gone home, my good friend took me and his friend out to his family’s vineyard for a walk around. He showed us some of the varieties that they had and a huge patch of fresh plantings. Costieres de Nimes was by far one of the most beautiful vineyards I’ve been to, overlooking the Camargue and the Mediterranean in the distance.

As I said at the start of this post. This was one of the most special experience I’ve ever been in. At a foreign country, meeting one of my good friend’s entire family and partaking in one of their yearly gatherings, eating amazing food, having incredible conversations, playing an epic game of petanque and viewing the spectacular landscapes that surround them completely. It was like a dream.

 

What’s the most cultural experience you’ve ever had?

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