February 19, 2007

Too many cooks…

Can there be such a thing?

Not when dinner for twelve is four hours away and the Saturday Market lunch has stretched into a lazy afternoon as we drive the Gascon hills. Not when Chinese New Year's dinner for twelve is two hours away and we have Lucy’s dumplings to make, Pim’s rice, my own spiced pork belly to braise. I promised a winter gathering, a New Year's piggy feast and the little house with a big French Kitchen is filling quickly with cooks and friends. Hungry friends.

The Nerac market is my magnet. It draws me each week- rain, fog or sun- to talk and buy, taste and bavarder*. It’s not a big market, an hour would do to shop, but these are old friends of many such Saturdays. It takes time to kiss cheeks and exchange news. First I buy ducks feet for soup, boudin de canard and terrine from Patricia; Lucy V. and Pim T. click away. They start to wander off driven by the textures and bustle of the late morning but I call them back to meet Jean-Claude and taste the rich Laguiole and Salers cheese that he drives down every week from the Auvergne. 250 grams of each in the basket. David and Sue know my slow ways and stick close to sample and meet my clan of market vendors. But food bloggers are loathe to miss a shot or a new opportunity so as I ping back and forth, down the umbrella-ed aisle exchanging euros for food, chatter for information and filling the baskets for dinner. There are 12 mouths to feed.

I stay overlong Chez Kakou as two large bone-in hams catch my eye.
“What’s a coche?” I ask and twenty minutes later, duly informed and having sampled the jambon de cochon- the ham made from a young pig- 12-18 months old versus the Jambon de Coche- much larger, deeper red with a thick white band of solid fat, we walk away with two large slices of this special ham made from an old sow- the equivalent of a stewing hen to a fryer.

Cabbage shoots, little grey shallots, leeks- big and small, two dense loves of rye bread, a sausage, pain d’epice, soy bean sprouts, water cress, prunes, oranges, and fresh eggs later…baskets distended, handles cutting into palms, we arrive at Chez Chapolard, artisan butchers, where we buy a pig’s heart, a 3-kilo piece of pork belly and are given a pound of merguez and an invitation to dinner. Then a quick charcuterie lesson to taste. I now know the difference between saucisse seche and saucisson. Ask me nicely and one day I’ll tell you.

After an improvised studio visit with Franny and a pique-nique in her kitchen, we return to Camont to cook and cook and cook.

As fat as a new year’s pig, my French Kitchen grew and grew until under the new moon it spilled into ‘CafĂ© Camont’ where we ate and drank to winter foods, long life, new friends--and old. The Year of the Pig, Cochon & Charcuterie begins.

Long live these too many cooks.


Divina said...

so sorry to have missed the fest and feasting.. 13 at the table with me???
in Italy it is bad luck!

Best wishes for a prosperous New Year... June in Tuscany!

Betty C. said...

Just ran into your blog -- it sounds like we have a lot of interests in common, but that you are really living a dream project. Go for it!

cityfarmer said...

Cheers....carry on!