Saturday, January 3, 2009

Oh no, Another Feast

Back from the vacation again. A quick trip to the Arriege. The Pyrenees and Montsegur, last stronghold of the Cathars. The mountains are still there but not the Cathars, at least not in any organized form. So instead we visited grandma. We stopped in to eat the goose and see about her broken elbow that kept us from eating that goose on Christmas.

In France it’s all about the food, and at the holiday time this is more present than normal. Everyone is laying it out and at the start of the holiday week, sitting in a little local wine bar with a few friends we splurged and ordered a bit of foie gras. Somehow it led to a discussion about the methods of going about enlarging the liver of the geese or ducks to acquire this very tender delicacy. Unfortunately the night ended with a discourse on the habit of eating foods packed with ‘bad spirits’ and well, I could only agree and consequently swore off my now tainted habit that reaches a peak at this time of the year. At the time it seemed not only logical and sane, but fairly easy to do. I mean who wants to feast on the fruits of torture.

As I said it seemed like a simple thing to do. Like all other seemingly simple acts it required a lot more than I bargained for. It started in the Pyrenees, which accounts for a good part of the 17,000 tons of fois gras produced annually in France. We weren’t at grandma’s house more than an hour before the food started coming out. She was preparing the diner for the village new years fete and there was no limit to the quantity of delicacies lying about in the kitchen. The first thing she offered was some foie gras, which she was in train of stuffing into prunes which would be served hot with the filet mignon the next evening. I looked at her daughter who had been with me that infamous night two days earlier. She looked at me and smiled. I am not sure if it was because of my fresh dilemma or because she is hip to my frequent late night testimonies of good will that are quickly forgotten the next morning. In any case I remained mute for a moment and then I heard from the kitchen, “I have some with truffles too”.

Well I took that as a sign that I had been too excessive in my recent proclamation. I don’t know if you have ever tasted foie gras or truffles, both of which are exceedingly tasty. Perhaps you have, and if you have tasted them together then you already know my response. I decided that it would be impolite to my host to refuse. I quickly added aloud to my wife that it made much more sense to make my decision effective at the beginning of the new year. We all need resolutions for the new year and now I had one . The sauterne was opened and the fattened livered consumed. Delicately laced with the perfume of truffle it danced in my mouth and left flavors that didn’t stop giving. Simply put, it was very, very good.

Little did I know then that my holiday crisis was just beginning. The next day on the table at a friends there was the foie gras again. I ate it. I reiterated the story of the tasty but bad spirits and my decision for that nights resolution. If it was possible, it almost tasted better knowing it would be my last. Then we got ready for the new years party.

It was like any other new years party, a few friends, a lot of champagne, a lot of good food, a bit of dancing. The only thing that was different was that there was one guest who was a butcher and his wife from the area. They fondly call him the pig man because he deals in pork of very high quality. He picks and chooses his animals from the farmers themselves. All small local producers, all traditional and all sane. The meats and sausages he produces are fantastic and often best just eaten raw. They have flavor that you wouldn’t know existed if you’ve only eaten mass produced products.

We were at the table again about one o’clock when he comes in from the kitchen with an entire ducks liver, pinkish brown and just a bit shiny sitting on a plate. Everyone at the table almost oohing and ahhing as he set it down. Everyone that is but me. I am groaning at the folly of my attempt. They all say his foie gras is the best. Subtle, smooth, full of taste. Having eaten many of his other products I can’t doubt it.

Again the discussion, and then he explains where he acquires it, how he prepares it. About the traditional method of gavage, the stuffing of the geese and ducks. From ancient Egypt, then Rome, now here still. You see the fowl have a natural attitude towards over eating, a stockage of fat for the migratory season. Sure the local farmers push that natural aptitude but if you let the birds go they will regain their natural form just as they do in the wild. It all made sense. Being still within the past years calendar (technically it was still December 31st evening) I served myself a small piece. They were right it was a perfect texture, delicious, the best I can remember eating. Just before serving myself more I saw all the bad spirits leave the liver that was before me. It was then that I firmly decided never to make a new years resolution again.


  1. New Year resolutions are made to be broken.

  2. Greetings!

    It is good to hear of your happy travels. Had you contacted us in advance, we would have been pleased to arrange meetings with organized brethren in the area.

    Thank you for your time!

    Brad Hoffstetter
    Communications Division
    Assembly of good Christians

  3. "It's folly", say some. Others cry "fowl!" You can just say, "please pass the foie gras."

    Alas, a new resolution is born - no more resolutions.