Goose Fat and Garlic

Goose Fat and Garlic

Goose Fat and Garlic

A few weeks ago – only just found time to write about it – I attended the launch of a new edition of Goose Fat and Garlic, a book about the cooking and recipes of SW France. Jeanne Strang, who has had a house in Aveyron for more than 50 years, held her signing session at La Ferme Carlès in Monteils, near Villefranche-de-Rouergue. It was a good choice, since the eponymous Jacky Carlès makes traditional products, prepared according to old-style recipes.

Jeanne Strang

Jeanne Strang

Before going any further, I know that not everyone eats meat and most of the products at La Ferme Carlès and a lot of the recipes in Jeanne’s book will not appeal to vegetarians. However, peasant cooking in SW France is not just about meat. Leafing through my copy of Goose Fat and Garlic, I noted a number of recipes involving only vegetables and staples such as flour or lentils and/or cheese, e.g. crêpes au Roquefort (Roquefort pancakes) or les châtaignes en salade (chestnut salad). Okay, they are often cooked in animal fat but olive oil or other vegetable fats are good substitutes.

Jeanne has drawn on her substantial personal experience of this region of France but she has also done a lot of research. Her book was first published in 1991, thirty years after they bought their house. As she points out in her preface, the standard of living has improved markedly since 1961, when local farmers were still ploughing with oxen. Paradoxically, this has led to the increase in popularity of traditional peasant dishes, which are now well known far outside the region. She gives the examples of aligot (potato, garlic and cheese purée) and cassoulet (bean, pork and duck/goose stew). She devotes a chapter to the latter.

Oulado (hearty duck and veg soup) cooking at La Ferme Carlès

Oulado (hearty duck and veg soup) cooking at La Ferme Carlès

The 21 chapters are organised mainly by type of ingredient, e.g. le cochon, l’ail, les fromages, les noix. The introduction to each chapter describes the history of the ingredient and its production and includes anecdotes from Jeanne’s experience, such as illegally fishing for écrevisses (crayfish) with neighbours in a local stream. Jeanne’s style is sometimes reminiscent of Elizabeth David’s but not so acerbic.

An independent press called Kyle Books publishes Goose Fat and Garlic. They specialise in books about cookery, gardening, lifestyle and reference. Life is full of odd coincidences. Kyle Cathie, who founded and runs Kyle Books, was at the launch. She seemed strangely familiar. Then we realised that we had coincided at the publishers Macmillan back in the 1980s, although we worked in different locations. We had to come to SW France to meet again.

The eponymous Jacky Carlès

The eponymous Jacky Carlès

La Ferme Carlès claims to be the most-visited food-related attraction in the Aveyron Département after the Caves du Roquefort. Coachloads of visitors turn up for guided tours, followed by a slap-up lunch based on their products. I sometimes wonder how authentic such meals really are or if they were served only on high days and holidays. From my reading of romans du terroir and social histories of France, the typical peasant diet seems to have been rather more mundane. However, Carlès is one of the bastions against the rising tide of mass production and globalisation, which the South West seems to have resisted better than some regions.

I’m looking forward to trying some of Jeanne’s recipes.

Goose Fat and Garlic: Country Recipes from South West France, Jeanne Strang (Kyle Books, £14.99).

Copyright © 2013 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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14 Responses to Goose Fat and Garlic

  1. Pingback: French Flavours #3: C is for Cassoulet | Life on La Lune

  2. Pingback: French Flavours #1: A is for Aligot | Life on La Lune

  3. lostfrance says:

    Have had Goosefat and Garlic for many years, I live in aveyron and was completly unaware of this event, where was it advertised, would like to make sure I don’t miss any similar events

    Like

  4. Pingback: Garlic and Garlic Recipes | Life on La Lune

  5. alisondunlop says:

    Goose Fat and Garlic is a really engaging read, as well as a favourite cook book! Bought it when we stayed near Caylus about 15 years ago and its pages are well-worn now. Can’t wait to return to the Aveyron next month – thanks for the lovely reminders of the delights of your wonderful region. Really pleased to have stumbled upon your blog!

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    • nessafrance says:

      Hi Alison and thanks for your nice comment. I’ve enjoyed reading Goose Fat and Garlic but still haven’t made anything from it yet! Too busy over the summer. Some of the recipes demand more autumnal temperatures, too. Enjoy your trip to the Aveyron. September is a good time: the weather is usually still good but not too hot and most of the hordes have gone home.

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  6. susancarey says:

    I always use goose fat to make roast potatoes. They come out wonderfully tasty and crunchy! Love the book cover by the way. Reminds me of our geese we had back on the ol’ farm.

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    • nessafrance says:

      I’ve heard from others that goose fat is best for roast potatoes (duck fat works too). I like the book cover too but I’ve never seen a pink gingham tablecloth in France!

      Like

  7. lizgyooll says:

    How lovely! I’ll certainly look forward to buying a copy of Goose Fat & Garlic …. sounds wonderful:)

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    • nessafrance says:

      See Victoria’s comment – the recipes work, which is not always the case with some cookery books. It’s a good cultural introduction to SW France as well.

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  8. Goose Fat and Garlic is one of my favourite cook books – the heavy staining on some of the pages is testament to that! The recipes work and it’s a good read too.

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    • nessafrance says:

      Obviously well-used in your kitchen! Good to hear the recipes work. With some cookbooks you wonder if the author every tried the recipes. I can vouch for its being a good read.

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