Monday, November 30, 2015

A fat little piggy

French Village Diaries Les Gastronomades Angouleme food France cheese
Les Gastronomades, Angouleme

This morning I am feeling like a fat little piggy having spent the whole weekend celebrating all that is good about French food and social eating.

On Friday morning I set out for the regular airport run to collect Ade, but we found ourselves diverted from our usual drive home, firstly by the coffee stop that has become our routine and then by Les Gastronomades, an annual food festival in Angouleme that we have visited before (see here). Held in a selection of marquees throughout the town, the festival promotes the local Poitou-Charentes produce, holds a huge market where producers from all over France come to sell their products, puts on displays and demonstrations by top chefs and more importantly encourages everyone, young and not so young to learn more about food and where it comes from. From snails to saucisson, wine to walnuts, fromage to foie gras and breads to Bio (organic) products, we tasted the best of flavours from Brittany in the north to the Pays Basque in the south.

French Village Diaries Les Gastronomades Angouleme food France pate rillettes piment d'Espelette
Some of our purchases from Les Gastronomades, Angouleme

There were increased security measures following the recent events in Paris, but I’m delighted it was still able to go ahead and not only that but Friday is the day the event normally welcomes around 2000 school children and this year was no exception. It was lovely to see them tasting, learning and trying their hand at making too. That’s the spirit France, allons-y!

French Village Diaries Les Gastronomades Angouleme food France
Les Gastronomades, Angouleme

French Village Diaries pork fest gigouri pate rillettes boudin noir brawn
French village pork fest
On Saturday evening we joined over a hundred others to eat a pig feast in the salle des fêtes (village hall), where a small team of experienced family cooks had spent three days preparing lots of different pork dishes. The smell of cooking pork had been lingering over the village and even tempted me to take a peek in the kitchen on Thursday afternoon. The cooked meat from the pig’s head was being mixed together with vegetables and parsley before being poured into plastic water bottles with a homemade gelatinous pork stock. Once set, the plastic bottle was cut away leaving cylindrical blocks of fromage du tête (pig’s head cheese or brawn) that was sliced and served. There were many firsts for me, including the first time attending this annual event despite having lived here for 11 years. The pig’s head cheese was certainly a first as was the boudin noir, a black pudding type of blood sausage and the gigouri a local speciality made using cooked pig skin, belly fat, seasoning and blood. The boudin noir was delicious, the brawn ok but I think I’ll pass on the gigouri in the future. I was always a very fussy eater when I was a kid, so I think I did very well to try what I did. The main course was roast pork, studded with garlic and served with beans, then there was cheese and to top it off (at about 11.30pm) a tasty homemade apple tart. I rolled into bed after midnight feeling happy but very tired and very full.

French Village Diaries pork fest gigouri pate rillettes boudin noir brawn
Rillettes, pate and gigouri

French Village Diaries pork fest
Roast pork with garlic

Sunday dawned and despite not really needing to eat, a Sunday isn’t a Sunday without a breakfast of coffee and croissants from the village boulangerie, so I somehow found room. Thankfully my diary is showing no major eating events until next weekend and I’m back to enjoying my simple vegetable soups, the perfect winter detox.  

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