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'k' is not a very French letter. Most words beginning in 'K' are foreign like le kimono, le kookaburra, and le kangourou. In fact, half of the words in the kid’s dictionary I use are from the other side of the planet from France. Peut-etre, ‘K’ is just a foreign concept like… me.
A friend once called me an ‘inside-outsider’ here in Southwest France. Having lived here afloat along the Canal de Garonne for nearly 20 years, I am accepted by neighbors and friends as being, well, just Kate. No “Madame this” or “Madame that.” Whereas my friend Vétou has called her neighbor Madame Auch as they morning coffee together for 30 years , my rather formal widow-neighbor Mme. Dupuy, calls me just “Kate”. And always has. Not very French to call someone by their first name! And me, a ‘woman of a certain age’ even. Perhaps it’s because neither of my names sounds French. Kate doesn’t conjure up Kathryn or even Kathy to le francais and “Hill” comes out 'eel/ill'-- with a bit of a hiccup.
“Just Kate” also means I have crossed the formidable line between vous and tu; you can’t vous-voyez someone you call by their first name! Or maybe it is as John Berger described in Pig Earth, these villagers see me in my rural inexperience much like a child. I had to be taught the ways of their country's life, French country life, from planting a garden to putting up pigs.
(Of course, you knew that this was pig blogging weekend and that’s where I was going!!!)
This week the advertising flyers arriving in the mail from Intermarché, Géant Casino and Carrefour all say the same thing ---la Foire de PORC! I realized for the first time in all these years, that I didn’t need my neighbors to hold my hand. I could if I wanted to, like a good suburban French woman, go to the hypermarché and buy all the makings for home-made sausage, pate or even ham from salt to canning jars. Closer to homeport here at Camont I use the local farm store, Terre du Sud, selling knives, gauze bags, salt, jars, boilers, labels etc.-- one stop shopping. Everything but the pig!
The PIG! Since I didn’t order a pig earlier in the year from my farm neighbors, the Sabadini’s, I can go to the neighboring village butchers who have extra shoulders, hocks and trotters available as pig fever starts to take over. But best of all is that tomorrow, at the Saturday market in Nerac, if I go early enough, the Chapolard Brothers will have a true nose-to tail selection of their high-quality, lovingly raised Gascon/Great White pork in their market wagon case. Marc Chapolard or his much-mustachioed and bereted frere offers every week a whole beast, in bits, for the weekend pig blogging that goes on all winter here. A ‘green’ ham to boil? A shoulder to roll into coppa? A fresh liver to mix with lard and potatoes for a peppery paté de foie? A sack of ears to cook crisply and serve with a winter salad? The beret or stomach? The couenne/skin rolled for adding to cassoulets? If you are more inclined to eat than cook, then you can walk away with fresh boudin, saucissons, perfectly seasoned terrines, confited pork chops and ham, ham and ham. Three different kinds.
I leave my pig blogging post a surprise, even to me. It’s what I like best about shopping at the markets. I am confident enough that I have a great supply of delicious and carefully-raised pork from which to choose. Every ‘insider’ has her sources, secret or not, and being an insider in Gascony has its delicious rewards. If K is not a very French letter, for a not-French-at-all outsider, then K stands for …just Kate.
KH by TC
and a special thanks to Michael Hayward for round comfort