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Celebrate Bastille Day With French Onion Soup

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As many of you know, my paternal Grandmere was French. Bastille Day will be celebrated on July 14th. During my Papa’s lifetime, this was always a joyous holiday. We had wonderful dinners, he sang Gallic songs, and would always tell us to remember the French contribution to freedom in Les Etats Unis.

My father died twenty years ago on Bastille Day. This year, as always, I will raise a glass to him and the spirit of Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. Please join our party.

Giving a theme to a dinner is a way to take a simple meal and make it a special event. The fantasy of dining in another country may be achieved with a bit of creativity, and very little effort. The spirit of fun involved with having it can make even a very simple meal memorable.

This dinner could be used for easy entertaining, since most of it can be prepared in advance. If you would enjoy a special time with your children, you will find that a traditional food from another country can make an opportunity to share fun and teach them a bit of social studies at the same time.

Of course, there is always the possibility of creating a romantic fantasy evening a deux. This is the time to wear that beret, or frilled apron. All things French are friendly to lovers.

To create your theme, begin by decorating the table. Cover it with a white cloth. In the center, place a breadboard (Yes, the cutting board from your kitchen is just fine) on which you have draped 2 bunches of grapes, red and white, then place a baguette (loaf of French bread), a small whole wheel of Brie, and a knife. If you like, you can also use the empty wine bottles left from the recipe as candleholders.

Music is always a pleasant addition to a dinner party, and it need not cost you a cent. Your local public library will have recordings of French music, which you may borrow for free. You could also get a video with a French theme to view after the meal. The number of films available at the library will amaze you.

Onion Soup is a favorite in my family. Not one of us, however, is willing to eat the poor substitute served in restaurants. This recipe takes a long time to cook, but requires almost no culinary skill. There are only a few ingredients, the most important of which is patience. It can be prepared the day before, and reheated to serve. The leftovers, if there are any will freeze beautifully. The aroma of the soup as it cooks is sure to make everyone eager for this pleasant meal.

Serve the soup with salad, the bread, cheese, and Fruit from your centerpiece, a pastry from your local bakery, and a good white wine. A bit of chocolate with the coffee is also a very authentic touch. You are certain to enjoy your own French creation more than anything at your local bistro.


5 pounds yellow onions, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup olive oil

2 bottles dry white wine

2 tablespoons mock beef bouillon powder

4 bay leaves

2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce


Put a 4-quart pan on the stove. If at all possible, make it a nonstick one. Pour in the olive oil, and add the onions into the pan. The right amount of onions will reach all the way to the top. Set the pan on a medium heat, and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until translucent and a dark golden brown. This will take about an hour, at the end of which time the onions will only fill 1/3 of the pot.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Into the pot with the onions, pour the white wine. Do remember that bad wine makes bad food, and use something you would enjoy drinking. Do NOT try to make good onion soup by using water instead of the wine; it won’t work. Add the mock beef bouillon granules, Bay Leaves, and Worcestershire Sauce. Cover the pan tightly, and place it in the oven for 2 ˝ hours. Alternately, you may put it in a crock-pot for the next day. That is all you must do.

This recipe will serve 6-8 people. If you like to eat this topped with browned cheese, divide it into ovenproof bowls, sprinkle in the grated cheese (usually Swiss and Parmesan combined), then brown it with a torch. You can buy a small butane torch for browning foods at any hardware store.

Do NOT try to do this with the bowls in a pan under the broiler. The soup will spill, the bowls will usually break, and you will be very unhappy indeed. If you won’t try the torch, just sprinkle in the cheese and let it melt with the heat of the soup. Your evening in Paris will be lovely.

Copyright 2002 Eddy Robey
Excerpts from It's Not Just Chicken Soup.
hosted by the Gantseh Megillah

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