Regular readers of my blog will know that my passion for travel is fuelled by my other passions. Tasting the local food and exploring cities, villages & countryside on foot. If I’m lucky, the two balance each other out from a health point of view. Unfortunately, many of the French delicacies are far from healthy.
First there was the cassoulet in Carcassonne. The beans may have been full of fibre but the Toulouse sausage, ham hock and confit de canard were not very healthy. In addition, it’s all cooked in goose fat which is sure to clog the arteries.
Then, in the Dordogne, the typical restaurant menu would list duck, fois gras and small rounds of goat’s cheese from Rocamadour. When I previously passed through the region I visited a foie gras farm where the geese seemed perfectly happy. However, most people are appalled by the gavage (the force feeding of the geese to engorge their livers and produce the rich, creamy pate that top chefs serve in their restaurants). A trial is currently taking place in Western France where a foie gras producer has been accused of cruelty by an animal rights group. There are approximately 8000 fois gras producers in France but consumption is dropping and some places, such as India and California, have banned it altogether.
Duck comes in many forms: confit de canard – duck leg salted then cooked in its own fat); magret de canard – duck breast; and gizzards (pieces of the neck) which are very tasty in a salad with local apples and walnuts from the many groves which line the Dordogne.
As well as the truffle markets, which take place in certain regions from December to February, I have also enjoyed many local weekly markets. In Chauvigny, on a damp Saturday morning, the market was buzzing with life. I followed the flow of local customers, winding their way through the stalls of large shiny apples, jars of sweet honey, cured sausages of deer, wild boar and duck, pyramids of goat’s cheese and mushrooms cultivated in troglodyte caves.
And then there’s the wine, best bought direct from the Domaine where it is grown and produced. Last year I stayed on a lot of vineyards and sampled a variety of red, white and rose wines. I tend to prefer the mono-cepage wine (wine produced from a single grape variety) such as chardonnay, muscat, syrah or merlot. I’m also rather partial to the sweet wines like sauternes or monbazillac. Wine shops are getting quite modern these days with electronic dispensers enabling easier sampling of many different wines.