Widow fined for drink at husband’s graveside

A French widow, who says she was simply honouring her husband's dying wish by sharing a few glasses of champagne with family and friends at his graveside for his birthday, was fined by unsympathetic police for disturbing the peace, according to reports on Monday.

Widow fined for drink at husband's graveside
A case in France shows bubbly and cemeteries may not mix. Photo: Xavier68/Gaby Av/Flickr

The small gathering at a Frenchman’s grave on his birthday was supposed to be a poignant occasion but it was too much of a "ruckus" for police in a tiny village in south-western France.

Josiane Couston brought together four friends, one of her sons and her three-year-old grandson for her deceased husband’s birthday on July 17th, 2013 in a cemetery in Les Angles. The emotional meet-up had been one of the last wishes of 61-year-old Jean-Luc Couston as he lay dying in September 2011, French paper La Provence reported.

So the group gathered, with a glasses of champagne in hand, to share stories and reminisce about their loved one on his birthday. But someone at the cemetery that day didn’t approve of the "commotion" created by the gathering and called the police.

Three local police officers turned up at the cemetery, and instead of simply warning the group or asking them to move on, they informed Josiane it was illegal to drink there and issued her with a fine for disturbing the peace.

Though the fine is just €38 Josiane’s lawyer said she has refused  to accept it.

“Josiana is fighting the ticket because, beyond the fine, it’s a question of principle for a woman, who with no bad intentions, honoured the last wish of her husband,” the woman’s lawyer Emilie Chapuis told La Provence.

SEE ALSO: French woman wins right to marry dead fiancé

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Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?