It always amazes me how a few simple things when put together create a much greater whole. Such was my final lunch in Gascony. More than an ordinary lunch, rather a taste, of the Lot-et-Garonne where I had been staying. The meal was also a reflection of everything I had been doing during my stay, of the markets, producers and farmers I have met. Not only a reflection of place, but also time. Seasonality. Because despite it being winter, the day was mild with a slightly chilly breeze. Kate prepared a simple Endive and Apple salade seasoned with Agen Prune pit essence. The endive, we bought at the Agen market that morning. While we were at the market in Agen we also picked up some Butcher’s Terrine, Gratton and some Saucisse Couenne from the young butcher who pastures 80 pigs in the forest on his farm and then processes them into all manner of porky delights. From the same purveyor we purchased the endive from we bought some of the sweetest radishes I’ve ever eaten. Not a hint of bitterness or overwhelming tang. Just a bright, crisp, radishy sweetness. I couldn’t stop eating them. Later on, in another part of Agen in the covered market, which was unfortunately shutting down as we entered, we hurriedly purchased some Paté Gascon with Cepes from the Charcuteir there and some of my now favorite Raw Milk goat cheese–the lovely little cheesy disks known as Rocamadour. At just 35 grams they are the perfect post-lunch, pre-dessert treat. I think I consumed at least eight in the name of research…..
One of the three final elements which pulled the lunch together was a perky rosé we bought from the vintner, who poured it from his plastic kegs into a 1.5 liter bottle. At just around $3 it wasn’t going to win any awards, but was the perfect thing to accompany the mix of salty charcuterie, seasoned terrines and other cooked and fresh delights in the lunchtime melange. Finally, we had a sampling of the master-work of the two producers who I came here to learn from. By now I have consumed several pound of the delicious charcuterie produced by the Chapolards. Knowing the care and detail that goes into each step of their production made me appreciate what I was eating even more. And then there was duck…. Not only any duck, but the Magret Fourré that Jehanne Rignault produces. This blend of cured duck breast and cured foie gras is one of the best things I ate on my trip. In fact, I am really upset that I left the piece given to me behind in the refrigerator at Camont… And, no, don’t ask me for the recipe. It is proprietary. There have to be some secrets in the world. If you really must know, then Il faut venire ici–you must come here.
But really, the most important part of this lunch–beyond the beautiful day and the fantastic food–was my hostess, Kate Hill. The fact that she dragged me all around Gascony, down to Spain and back, put up with my obsessive tweeting and endured me for nine days, is a testament to what she will do to enjoy the good life and French Ways. We had a blast. Two kindred spirits, out to learn by doing, seeing and tasting. Kate helped open doors for me which would otherwise have remained closed. She translated the French mode into my everyday reality. To that, I will drink a toast of the vintage Armagnac we purchased, while out & about, once I finally return to my petit ferme and re-assimilate back into my daily life of milking my beloved vache du lait, cooking, writing, and hosting newly enriched workshops.