13 February 2010

Bérets and Birds- Gascony

It is high duck season here in Gascony. The buying is good, the selling competitive.
We drove over an hour away, to the small town of Gimont, to see the festivities of a Marché au Gras in live and living color. And damn was it spectacular.

From November to March, these gigantic marchés are held to sell ducks and geese.
Local vendors line their plucked ducks up on long white tables.
When the bell goes off at exactly 10:30AM, there is a mad rush to find the
best of the best ducks, geese and livers for making everything bird.

A very careful inspection is necessary to find any little flaw that
could possibly make or break a superb fois gras.

"That one. I'll take that one, s'il vous plaît."
It became immediately clear that purchasing duck is a serious matter.

Hanging ducks.

Want to have your ducks butchered here and not have to worry about it when you get home?
Well, you're in luck. Step right up and hand the birds over.
These fast, skillful butchers slice the birds into parts in about 2 minutes flat.

Another critical aspect of the marchés is the vet.
He gives the go-ahead that the vendors are selling legitimate meat.

The birds are piling up....
Not only are people like us there to buy just a duck or two, but people with restaurants to supply are buying by the cart-full. And they surely want their ducks chopped.

And how much do yooour birds weigh?

It some ways it seemed a morbid affair, walking in and out of aisles of birds,
their necks draped off the edges of the tables as if preparing for execution.

It is getting close to the end, and vendors with birds left are getting anxious.
The whole market only lasts about 1/2 an hour...so if you tend to be late to dates,
don't bother coming on this one. People get in and out and the supply vanishes.

Carts are necessary for those buying in bulk.
The French-size trucks are outside waiting to be stuffed to the brim with cold, naked birds.

It is common to have higher demand than supply, so all the birds will most likely be sold.
The stragglers will stay by and chat, but most people get what they want and head home, especially on such an unseasonably chilly day burrrrrrrrr.

Another Sunday market come and gone in the blink of an eye.
Bon appétit.

09 February 2010

Frosty Morning @ Camont

Arriving to a new place at night is always mysterious and wonderful because you never
know exactly what to expect when you draw the curtains in the morning.

I woke up on my first morning at Camont to quite a lovely surprise.
The Garonne Canal runs right past Kate's property, parallel to the Garonne River close by.
Since this patch of the canal runs east-west, the sun rises at one end and sets at the other.
And this particular morning, while a subtle sun was rising to the east...

...a very full and tired moon was setting to the west.

Camont is situated right outside of the well-populated city of Agen in the southwest of France, directly between Bordeaux and Toulouse. This area is the most agriculturally diverse region of France, with fields of apples, kiwis, fava beans and grapes stretching on forever.
The farmland for miles and miles was covered in a delicate frost.
And there wasn't a sound to be heard besides my crunching footsteps on the solid earth.

From the wood pile, to the herbs...

...and even the new buds on the trees, the little crystals shone in the morning light.

I have grown to love the morning walks around the property
with Kate's horse, I mean dog, Bacon, whose favorite activity is chomping on the
old, smelly compost meant for the chickens.

Spring usually comes early in this area, so thought the duck.
He was clearly perplexed by his unusually frozen pond.

Frozen crab apples hang on for dear life by their chilled, stiff stems.

Henri, the graceful male head of the chicken coup, watches protectively over his brood while
they feast on a corn, barley and wheat mixture.

Glimmering and shimmering, the sun climbs over the distant rolling hills.

Slowly but surely the rays warm up the yard, and everything is peaceful.

The house dates from the mid 1700's, with a pigeonnier, a piggery, the barn and the extremely minimal living quarters all attached. It has a very cozy feel.

What a perfect welcome to a new home.