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Trip Report A Hunter's Feast

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I do not know if I posted this before, so here it is. Some adventurous souls might be interested in finding a similar event when in the Dordogne.

Ann thought that I should tell you about our hunter's meal. Frank is a big hunter, and fortunately for him, he did see a boar on the newly created preserve that we see on the way to Excideuil. It was a small one, and he was able to attract it to the fence with his grunting so that he could take pictures of it. It seemed to last an eternity.

On market day we were in Périgueux and went to the covered market which contains most of the market butcher stalls. There Frank saw a small poster offering a meal that contained practically the only French word that he learned recently, which was sanglier. I checked and it was a repas de chasse offered on a farm for 15 Euro per person. We signed up, and went on to our excursion, meant to be an afternoon jaunt to visit a museum of Périgord life. The meal started at 19:00 officially, but as the man said, 19:00 Périgord time is 20:00. So from our museum we went wine tasting in Bergerac, and then went looking for the farm. We arrive at 20:00, and nobody is there. The farm stead is U shaped with a fairly modern hangard-like shed (big enough for a tennis court) with tarps in front of it on the left and the rest of the buildings old. On the right side, there's a pile of manure on the building closing the U. The farm house itself had been gutted to be rebuilt by the farmer/butcher's son who is in real estate in Périgueux as his own house. Next to it is a low barn with a 2500 lbs. bull being fattened for slaughter. The farmer/butcher claimed that he raised his beef for 5 to 7 years before slaughtering it, otherwise the meat would not have the proper consistency. I can't figure out the economics of it.

When getting out of the car, one is assaulted by the odor of the manure pile. We arrived and the ladies were reluctant to step out of the car, wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. But we stepped put, toured the house that was being renovated, saw the bull, and then went to the shed where tables had been set up in a U with straw on the ground. A bitch was in the background with her four pups; we were told that she had killed two others because she could not take care of them. We were given a drink of pineau maison, which is a mix of grape juice and alcohol, normally containing about 17% alcohol, but I suspect that this one was stronger. You could drink as much as you wanted , while munching on peanuts and pistachios. If you did not like that, you could have pastis with no limits, or whiskey--ditto on the limits. We were the only strangers there, so some people took us under their wing. One man told us that he had been a security guard at the Elysée (presidential) Palace under four presidents (De Gaulle, Pompidou, Giscard d'Estaing and Mitterand). He was the bookkeeper for the club and took the money for the feast. He also was the one who filed the reports at the end of a hunt, to tell authorities what they shot, where and how many. The club had shot 22 boars and 24 deer during the season, and that is what was to be the core of the meal. A very talkative lady latched on to us. She explained that she had met a man at a dance and has been with him for the last 11 years. The man was black. Her children all accepted him, but her mother refused to attend the wedding. She had been rescued from her terrible family life as a teenager by her god-father etc. etc. I practically got her life story from A through Z.

The meal began at 9:30 with a Tourrain Blanchi which is a very plain and bland garlic soup poured over a slice of bread. The lady immediately told us to not bother with it, and at that moment they passed around a white bean soup to which you add a teaspoon or so of walnut oil before eating it. It was delicious. With the soup and until the main part of the meal, we were served Vin des Jabaux (the name of the farm), which had maybe 8% alcohol and was quite acidic. This type of wine is known as piquette and is a traditional farm drink. Of course, we could have as much of it as we wanted. After the soup(s) (the bean soup was not listed on the menu), we had the crudités, which consisted of the traditional shredded carrot, cucumber, and tomato salad. Very good home preparation. Then came the melon with boar prosciutto, and as with everything else, we could eat as much as we wanted. The melons were ripe and the prosciutto great, but we were all trying to hold back, knowing there was more to come. I only had three wedges of melon with 5 or 6 pieces of the boar. The next dish was Civet de chevreuil, which was deer stew--unlimited quantities, and accompanied by Bergerac which was the wine for the rest of the meal. It was explained that deer meat is cooked as a stew because it is too strong to be grilled. It was a good stew. Then came the sanglier grillé (boar steaks), again à volonté, which was tender but rare because they had had a problem keeping the fires going in a wild thunderstorm that roared through when we sat down (no signs of trichinosis yet). The boar was accompanied by Haricots Couenne, which are white beans cooked with fresh bacon and served with walnut oil. This was followed by a plain salad using walnut oil in the dressing, then a very ordinary cheese, and finally a tarte, which was quite good. Our talkative lady had made her own cake which of course we had to eat even though we were all too full, and which was not that good either. Then came coffee, and with the dessert and coffee, they passed around some cheap champagne, prune and raspberry alcohol (undoubtedly 90+ proof). We left the table at 1:30 and were the first ones to leave after Frank got his dancing in, and we made our way to the car in the dark, trying to avoid the rivulets of liquid that were oozing out of the manure pile and spreading around on the ground.

The meal was accompanied by loud music, mainly American. Frank knew most of the tunes. A tape recorder was the substitute for the musette player in Breughel paintings.

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