Monday, September 20, 2010

Sundays in the Country

We have been filling our weekends with French country experiences since our return from Canada. I suspect it's partly because we know our days here are numbered, so want to fill them with the best of what the region has to offer. The weather has been spectacular, and we have enjoyed driving through small French villages and the lush, green pastures that lead up to the Pyrenees mountains.

Last Sunday we headed deep into Basque Country to pick up some pork. We have purchased customized pork packages from this family before with our friends, and this time it was our turn to make the trek to the farm. They raise an ancient breed of pig that is unique to the area. It is mostly black, and has huge ears that hang in its face. They roam freely, and this time of year they munch on the acorns and chestnuts that fall from the trees. They are fairly active, so don't grow very large, but do have a very high fat content, making it ideal for making cured legs with. It leads to a product less like a prosciutto, and more like a good jamon iberico/pata negra-if you are lucky enough to have tried this Spanish delicacy, then you know what the fuss is about. Anyway, this time we filled our freezer with fresh cuts, sausages, and the best boudin we have ever tasted. The pork is delicious, and well worth the two hour drive to pick it up.

We were given a tour of the beautiful and ancient farm. The farmhouse is almost as rustic today as it was 250 years ago. We were welcomed in for coffee, and it was humbling to imagine such a simple life. But the young gentleman that runs the farm loves the life, and is so passionate about his animals and land. This is not factory produced meat, and you just know that the product he sells benefits from the love and attention that he devotes to it.

Yesterday we attended a festival in a small village closer to home. The highlight of the weekend's festivities was a sheep herding competition. There were several thousand people in attendance to see which shepherd and dog would prove to be the best herding team. The shepherd stood in one spot, and directed his dog to herd the sheep through gates and around a huge field, often just by whistling. It was very fun to watch!

Next weekend, Provence to stock up on fresh olives, olive oil, and wine.

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