September 12, 2006

A Week in Gascony: Monday- PIG

Monday- Pig Pink
Tuesday- Duck Yellow
Wednesday- Red Meat Red
Thursday- Wine Rosé
Friday- Armagnac Gold
Saturday- Market Rainbow Parasols
Days of the week...
Remember those cotton panties that had the name of the week embroidered on them?
I must have been too old to wear them or too young to remember; I’m not sure I even owned any but the image sprang to mind this week as Eric, Claire, Gary and David (all alumni’s of the French Culinary Institute) joined Vetou, Dupont and me for a “Week in Gascony—French Kitchen Adventures.”

During the week we shared a laundry basket of gastronomic colors. If as a group we wore our colors with pride, there is also no shame in sharing what we ate and what we cooked. This is Gascony—the great Southwest France. Here, business, life and love revolve around the table. And especially at the floating table of Camont. Join us for a week of good food and friendly neighbors in my Long Village- a floating table in France.

Monday - PIG
Chapolard Family Baradieu 47170 Mezin

This is what we bought, cooked and ate:
Boudin noir
Saucisse seche
Paté a la tete
Pied de porc

A van load of pig parts. An appetite whetted by the salty parfum of sausage and hanging hams. And a hunger to follow the field to table trail. Sunflower fields, their heavy-seeded heads hanging in anticipation of the harvesters, line the narrow French roads. The plate-sized heads are fat with seeds pressed for oil or used for animal feed. Here at Baradieu, near Mezin in the Lot-et-Garonne, one family has adapted a new version of the family farm into a better working model. Come join us for a tour of what the 4th Little Pig would have build against the big bad economic Wolf at the Door.

Along with corn, barley, wheat, and oats that they grow, the sunflowers feed an artisan level pork production at the Chapolard Family farm. Not just another French Impressionist landscape, the bright sunny faces have now become two-faced. First the sunflower seed pulp milled with the other grains to feed growing piglets then, in an economic tour de force, the oil pressed from the tournesol fields fuels Jacques’ Peugeot 505.

On this family farm, every few weeks, 5-6 sows throw a litter of 12-15 piglets that Bruno will care for and feed, then together with his brothers- Jacques, Dominique and Marc will bring to slaughter. Each Monday morning the brothers are joined by their wives and a few helpers to first butcher and then transform the succulent meat into delicious lardons, ventrêche, boudin, saucissons, saucisses, jambons, paupiettes, pates, terrines…

Tuesdays and Saturdays at Casteljaloux, Wednesdays at Lavardac and Saturday at Nerac a line snakes down the crowded market alleys as loyal customers line up to buy the high-quality selections of ‘L’Art du Cochon’.

“We are selling more than pork”, Dominique confides to us as we stand in the narrow white tiled laboratoire in our plastic booties, “we are selling confidence.”

“We notice our customers are younger, with young families, and that they rely on us for help: how long to cook a pork shoulder roast; how much Saucisse de Toulouse to buy; how best to store the smoked bacon; when to eat rillettes…”

“We sell a relationship, not just meat.”
I say they are selling smiles.


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