Feasting in France

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, October 15th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad you are! Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. France had one of the tightest lockdowns in Europe last spring as COVID-19 cases soared in the country.

Case counts are rising again. And now the government restricts private gatherings to no more than 30 people.

REICHARD: But in late summer, there was a window of reprieve. WORLD correspondent Jenny Lind Schmitt was there and brings us the story of a very special occasion.

JENNY LIND SCHMITT, CORRESPONDENT: Guillaume and Laurence Rousset each have big birthdays this year. The kind that end with zeros. 


To celebrate, they’ve invited their friends to a party in a field where everyone can socially distance. Nearly everyone they invited accepted. After months of lockdown and extra caution, everyone in France is feeling the need for something to celebrate. And a big celebration means elaborate food. So Guillaume and Laurence asked a friend to cook an entire lamb and a pig for the party.


Pascal Suter is a mechanical engineer who spends his weekdays designing and building machines for the watch-making industry. Today he’s using a different kind of machine, one he also built himself.


It’s a giant two-sided spit. To build it Pascal used a laser to cut the metal pieces to his specifications. Then he welded them together. He made a frame four feet high, six feet long, and one foot deep with grating on either side. Inside the grating, Pascal started a fire at 6 a.m. this morning. 


On either side of the fire, two long steel poles turn slowly, one rotation per minute. The motors turning the poles are repurposed windshield wiper motors. On one pole is an entire young pig. His head, ears, and tail are all still attached, slowly rotating and turning a dark golden pink. On the other pole is a lamb, roasting to a rich brown color. It smells something like Old Testament feasts must have. 


Pascal dips a huge metal ladle into the pan collecting the juices under the poles and bastes the lamb and the pig. The aroma of roasting meat wafts through the air. 

He only does this kind of barbeque a couple times a year, for big celebrations. The lamb was named Corona. Pascal and a friend butchered it yesterday, in the field where it was raised. He says that the death of the animal is a sad moment, but when done with respect, it can point to something profound. 

PASCAL: Quand on mange la viande, ca coute la vie a un animal, et c’est important de savoir que si nous on peut vivre, on vit du pardon, et la pardon qq part a coute la vie. Nous on sait que notre vrai pardon devant Dieu a couté la vie a Dieu lui- meme, a Jesus qui a donne sa vie pour nous. Le chretien qui croit en en Jésus, cruicifie et ressucite doit comprendre qu’il y a cette dimension la qui existe. C’est a dire que quand on croit en sacrifice, c’est pas juste un symbole, pas juste une theorie.

TRANSLATION: “When we eat meat, it costs the life of an animal. It’s important to know that if we live, it’s because we’re pardoned, and that pardon costs a life. We know that our true pardon before God cost Him his own life, that of Jesus who gave His life for us. The Christian who believes in Jesus, crucified and resurrected, must understand that that dimension exists. That when we believe in sacrifice, it’s not just a symbol or a theory.”



Pascal says what he loves most is that this process makes you feel the effort of preparing good food. This isn’t warming up something in the microwave. You can’t do it quickly. You can’t wander off. He has to stay watchful for five hours, tending the fire and basting the meat. 


The fire slows down a little, so he uses a small electric air pump to get the coals hot again. 


It’s already a hot day, and standing next to the fire for more than a few minutes is sweltering.  


The lamb is prepared with mustard, herbes de provence, and garlic. Now Pascal is pouring on white wine. The pig on the other hand, is stuffed with onions, peppers, and garlic, and closed up with steel pins. 

When the pig is almost done, Pascal takes the stuffing out of its belly, and heats up the fire to make the skin blister and crackle. Then he peels the skin off, and serves the crackling as an appetizer, like potato chips.


Finally the meal is nearly ready. Onlookers get out of the way, and Pascal cuts up the meat. 

Guillaume, the host, says that what he really wants is for today to feel like everyone’s party. 

GUILLAUME: On a tellement besoin d’etre en relation. D’aller plus loin d’une discussion juste Covid, mais de prendre des nouvelles, de savoir comment ca va, de profiter des un des autres. 

TRANSLATION: “We all really need to be in relationship. To have more than just a discussion about COVID and to really talk to each other, get news, find out how it’s going and to enjoy each other’s company.”


Guillaume thanks the guests for coming. After reminding everyone to use hand sanitizer he invites them to the table where abundance awaits. 


But first, he asks everyone to sing a hymn to thank God for the chance to be here today and to feast together.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jenny Lind Schmitt wishing you “Bon Appetit” from Roches-Les-Blamont, France.

(Photo/Jenny Lind Schmitt) Pascal and the roast

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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