You can't rush art (or a French meal)

Nearly six hours ago, I sat down to lunch with about 25 French people, most of them related to my host dad, to celebrate Papy Claude's 80th birthday. After singing Happy Birthday - in English (apparently it's très à la mode) - we started the meal. First came the champagne and hors d'oeuvres (which aren't called hors d'oeuvres in French, as far as I can tell), then the cold salmon and white wine. That lasted maybe an hour. Then a break for collective singing of a 20+ verse song one of Papy Claude's sons had rewritten detailing his life story, which took easily 15 minutes to sing. Then came the main course (filet of duck with potatoes and green beans) and the red wine (I bowed out of the alcohol at that point - I'm not French enough yet), bringing us to the two-and-a-half hour mark or so. A pause for conversation, then cheese and salad (and more wine, of course - it was flowing freely at this point). Then more champagne with the cake...and chocolate, and cookies, and fruit. Four hours. Coffee and tea - at this point I was just sitting back and admiring the eating prowess of the people around me - four and three quarters. Christelle and I left to go pick up Nico from rugby practice and came back to find that the 60-and-up crowd had left...and the rest of the adults had pumped up the dance music and were bringing out more wine. We're at the six hour mark and they're still partying it up downstairs. I cannot but admire the sheer amount of energy they still have after the marathon meal. I'm not sure even the lengthiest Thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter dinners I've had at home could rival it. Personally, I'm exhausted, but well-fed and relaxed and quite ready to admit that the French may have something here with this cultural tradition. (Though in light of the dance music, my dissertation isn't looking like getting written tonight. :P)