French take food very seriously. So when the Captain and I were invited to the annual Catana lunch we felt it was a great honour but had plans to sail away for the weekend.
French like Australians take sport very seriously. We were told this day was to include the annual Workers Bocce Championship. How could we refuse such as an auspicious occasion. Food combined with Sport. Perfect . We changed our weekend sailing plans to attend.
French also have a sense of humour though this is not similar to Australians.
French humour like French culture appears a little more serious and subdued. I am yet to see any self effacing humour that we Australians so happily partake of. So when the Captain was asked to partner with Catana plumber Didier for the Bocce Championship, he felt no problem in saying not only did he understand the rules but he happened to be an Australian Champion!
Ooh La La.
Those present did not appear to think that the Captain was joking. Oh dear. Instead they thought an Australian Champion was coming to lunch and ready to play one of their favourite national sports.
Bocce in France is like Cricket is to us, its important.
OOH LA LA!!
Lunch had gotten interesting before it even started.
However before I give account of the high stakes bocce battle I should paint a picture of where this year’s event was held.
Lunch was at a working farm with our instructions leading us inland through the obligatory quaint villages and narrow farming roads. Arriving in the Catana work van we at least looked like we belonged and this helped settle my nerves. This day had all the ingredients for being a cracker / or not depending on how the French view us.
As we walked through the farm gate we were greeted by a huge mother pig complete with mud bath and large pen. Our next view was of three large sheep that had been sacrificed to the grape vine spit, I knew at this point the drive was worth it even though I was feeling a little bedraggled. It was hot. It was really hot and driving in our non air conditioned non window-going-down van meant we were more than happy to arrive.
After a quick meet and greet with our Catana friends we got to sit next to Olivier Poncin the General Manager, Director of Catana. This was my first chance to meet the head man.
So far good.
French Food Farm Style
The food preparation was in the middle of the paddock, (do French have paddocks or are they fields?). The whole scene looked like it could have been from 50 years ago. Woman cooking over large pots on fires, wearing tea towels on their heads and old grape roots used to fuel the lamb spits. I was beginning to feel right at home.
Summer, hot weather, flies, roast lamb and wine casks on the table.
First observations: this meal looked more Australian than French. Sitting to the side was a chap with a DJ’s mixing table playing electronic tunes. Odd but not out of place on this day.
The table was a long L shape and plastic tarps provided the shade. (I doubt a food inspector at home would have allowed this meal but it looked amazing and smelt better.) The lamb was served with couscous and steamed ratatouille. OK, now it’s French again.
One of the women serving the lamb had a ciggy hanging from the side of her mouth. (Classic) It didn’t matter lunch was delicious and all the flies made me feel quite at home. Olivier told me the flies were an imported especially from Australia to make us feel at home. I was also told by another that flies came from Australian as an introduced pest. I didn’t know whether to believe this or not. I mean Europeans gave us rabbits so it seemed quite fair if we gave them flies.
On the table there were three lambs, then there were two and then were two carcasses of only bones left. I was not the only one who enjoyed the lamb….
Added to the couscous was Toulie’s secret sauce that was all spice and divine. Toulie was born in Thailand, is an American citizen and has lived in France for around 10 years. He also is an expert with paint and fiberglass for Catana and has been a wonderful friend to both Captain and I. He was also the main reason we had an invitation.
The mandatory bread, cheese and cake also followed with liqueurs including both a green and clear alcohol called “Get”. My first taste of Get was like drinking rocket fuel with a heavenly smooth aftertaste that rolled around in your mouth for moments after swallowing. Many pointed out to the Captain that Get was meant to act as an aphrodisiac and he could “get lucky” as they handed me a large portion.
No such luck as two sips was all I could drink, at this stage I was starting to wonder if I had heat stroke. It was getting hotter so water was my drink of choice.
Let The Games Begin
Lunch complete so it was time for the Australian champion to show his wares to the French locals. Bugger added to the locals ooh la la.
How The Catana Championships Worked
You turn up with a partner with three bocce balls each.
The aim is get as many of your teams bocce as close as possible to the small white target ball called the pig or cochon.
One partner goes with precision and accuracy and the other goes with brute force to push away the opposition balls if possible.
Your team only scores if one of your bocce’s is closest to the white ball.
First team to 13 points wins and progresses to play again.
I will say it again. Bocce is very serious business.
The Captain started by juggling his bocce balls. Not sure what he was thinking. Not sure what the locals thought either but they certainly appeared to be reserving judgement on this Australian Champion Clown.
First game the Captain and Didier were 7 nil down. Not looking good.
At least we were south of Marseille. I have been since told that the citizens of Marseille take their bocce so seriously that a false champion would find an extra bocce ball placed closed to another pair of balls very quickly and the experience would not be pleasant. However my Captain was ever confident and he soon found his rhythm and the first game went to the Australian interloper and Plumber Didier. Not bad, the countries honour was to remain in tack as was my Captains body parts.
Another few challengers and the lads were in the grand final. Amazing!
This was the closest of games. Point for point these guys were all good. The Captain was holding his own and his country could be proud. The final point and game went to team Miss Catana and her Plumber. (This is a great opportunity for you to give a little cheer for this special moment in our sporting history)
It was a long day. A serious bocce game takes a serious amount of time. Highlights include the food, the company, and the generosity of these wonderful people who made us feel so very welcome. Surprise of the day was the drop or pitt toilet. True. 60 odd people later it was a big surprise to me. Sawdust for when the job was finished, but the pink toilet paper was only the very best. It added to the occasion and the queue after me must have wondered why their odd guest was laughing once outside the hot box.
At days end I went back to take a photo.
It was another top day out.
Not only have Catana exchanged with us a beautiful fast “water going” home, they have given us a rich, memorial experience that will travel with us for a long time to come. We are very grateful. My question and perhaps something we should address is why there is no annual trophy that is physically handed to the victors.
Cheers the Miss
PS everyone seemed to have at least one set of bocce in their possession and some had three sets to choose from.
Miss Side Note: Pigs intelligence has been know to rival that of dogs and in testing situations a pig can out think a three year old child. For me it was really nice to meet a pig in a happy environment with plenty of space and the mum certainly appreciated the scratch on the way in and on departure. It did make me reconsider my love of bacon…