As easy as it was to start this Gascon ABC with “A is for armagnac’, just imagine what happens when you get to ‘F’. Words jump out of my mouth, in French and English, but it doesn’t take long to get to the center of gravity here. In Gascony, ‘F’ is definitely for... foie gras.
Today is market day at Lavardac, a small town on the Baïse River, just a day’s cruise up my Long Village. Friends and I scour this weekly, year-round market stretched out under the plane trees, wrapped around the band pavilion, and scattered across the boulodrome for some winter solstice treats as this week ramps up for Christmas. The usual suspects take shelter on this unusually cold morning under their striped awnings, square umbrellas and pop-up trailers. Hats and scarfs, fingerless gloves and blankets to protect the fragile produce dress the frozen crowd of vendors.
The Chapolard brothers bring “l’Art du Cochon” from ear to tail from their family farm in Mezin. I buy a small slab of pork belly and some boudin noir. 5.04 Euros
Bernard offers artisan cheeses and tubs of thick crème fraiche from all across France and my favorite sharp manchego from Spain. I buy a modest Saint Marcelin. One buck fifty- euros that is.
The many orchards of Ste. Colombe-en-Bruilhois perfume this fog-frosty air with their applepear perfume. I weigh up a couple kilos of pears, pay 4 euros and pop them in my basket.
But the Frosty, Foggy, French morning keeps whispering with a hoarse Gascon lisp- fwa grrrah as I sidle into line under the yellow striped awning that protects Patricia Lamarouche and Guillaume Dilhan while they serve the poultry they raise on their Ferme de Puymartin at Vianne. The Christmas specials to order for Saturday’s market at Nerac are posted on a chalkboard: chapon, dinde, oie de guinea, poularde, pintade chaponnée et le foie gras frais. I worry through my order. The line diminishes as fast as the contents of the refrigerated case: a 7-kilo fatted duck wrapped in white paper departs with a petite mémé, a 2-kilo roasting chicken, some boudin blanc and all the crepinettes made with duck meat and prunes doused in floc disappear with an visiting Irish family, the last guinea hen tucked under the arms of a vieux garcon, beret and all. By the time it’s my turn, all the capons, turkeys, guinea hens and fatted hens are spoken for. What will I prepare for Christmas eve dinner, a very small affair for a few holiday orphans? Patricia widens her eyes and says "Beh, Kate, c’est très simple. Un petit roti de foie gras !"
On Christmas Eve, the tiny bistro-galley of the Julia Hoyt will be awash with cold glasses of Guy Arrouy’s Cote de Gascogne, a robust red Cote de Marmandais from Elian da Roz and the oaken-vanilla scent of a Dubordieu armagnac as I roast the f-word to a rosy glow. ‘F’ is for foie gras, of course.
P.S. 'F' is also for Friends, Family and Food Blogs. In just a couple days, when we raise glasses and toast the table, don't forget to toast Pim's giving raffle. It felt so good, you can give again!