FOIE GRAS! S&M MOST FOWL? OR IS IT SIMPLY ONE OF THE BEST THINGS YOU HAVE EVER TASTED? From a culinary perspective there are many who love it, while others consider Foie Gras the byproduct of a demonic relationship between a sadistic farmer and a masochistic duck or goose. Here is how one of the greatest delicacies of France is created:
Foie gras is one of the most popular and well-known delicacies in French cuisine and its flavor is described as rich, buttery, and delicate, quite unlike that of a regular duck or goose liver. Foie gras is sold: whole (Entier), trimmings (Bloc) or as a pâté.
Typically, it is served as an appetizer on toast with a nice glass of champagne! But it also is an excellent accompaniment to a main course of filet or fowl.
The liver of a duck or a goose is specially fattened by 'gavage', a technique used by ancient Egyptians and dating as far back as 2500BC, when they began keeping birds for food and deliberately fattened the birds through force-feeding.
In America, the Foie Gras debate is raging! Here are two opposing perspectives from Chicago where its sale is now prohibited:
“Our culture does not condone the torture of innocent and defenseless creatures.”
Joe Moore – Chicago Alderman
“Foie gras has been around since the age of cuisine. Some animals are raised for food. They’re raised to die.”
Rick Tramanto – Chef at “Tru” in Chicago
Well, who do you agree with the Alderman or the Chef?
Check out: The Truth about Foie Gras before you decide.
Today, our little corner of southwest France is considered ‘ground-zero’ for Foie Gras in Europe. Trust me when I tell you that this whole ongoing debate against it is not all it is quacked up to be.
Bon Appétit et à bientôt! Jack
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BEFORE CANOES & CASTLE VISITS WERE PRINCIPLE TOURISM ENTEPRISES ON THE DORDOGNE RIVER and a very long time before the arrival of the railway along its banks in the late 1800’s, this river was once an important means of communication and exchange.
Traces of boating activity date as far back as Gallo-Roman period (1-2c BC – 3c AD). In fact, the center of Old Bordeaux was built on the site of the original Gallo-Roman port which was the capital of the Roman province of Aquitania. Amphorae once used for wine have been uncovered in the region of Bergerac; these amphorae bear witness to a wine trade with Ancient Rome before vines were planted along the banks of the river.
The Vikings also were a regular presence on the Dordogne river system, at least from the 840’s until the 860’s. Viking activity is well recorded in many parts of the Carolingian Empire, but raids on the Dordogne River system have been largely ignored so we can’t impart much detail here. We do know: Dordogne River trade through the middle ages of salt, leather, wood, walnuts and wine flourished and increased through the 13th century, slowing during the Hundred Years War and then with development of the gabares experienced a resurgence until the late 1800's.
The gabares were the traditional flat-bottomed boats used on the Dordogne for transporting goods between the Massif Central and the ports of Bergerac, Libourne and Bordeaux.
The Dordogne was divided into three sections for navigational purposes:
The Upper Dordogne (upstream of Souillac)
The upper section of the river is often no more than a narrow strip of water flanked on either side by steep cliffs. This part of the river was only navigable for approximately 30 days of the year in spring and autumn when the water level was high. In summer the water was too low and in winter too violent.
These gabarres were built to transport wood from the forests: Oak used to produce vats and barrels and Chestnut used to stake the vines. Upon arrival at their destination, the boats were sold along with their load. The boatmen then returned home on foot.
The Middle Dordogne (downstream of Souillac)
The middle section of the river was navigable for 6 to 8 months of the year. Boats from this part of the river would transport oak, chestnut, cheese and wine from Domme and would return with salt, wheat and salted fish.
These boats were able to return upstream by using the rising tide as far as Castillon, but from there on towing was necessary. The towpath more or less followed the river bank, with towing teams usually consisting of 20 to 30 people, who were replaced every 7km/4.5 miles. On difficult stretches 80 to 100 people were required to haul the boat. In the middle of the 18C manpower was replaced by oxen.
The Lower Dordogne (downstream of Castillon to the Bordeaux estuary)
This section of the river was permanently navigable and boats made their way back upstream in the same way as in the Middle Dordogne.
The railway arrived in Sarlat in 1882, and in the rest of the valley shortly after. Competition from the railways quickly undermined river transport, which soon died out on the Upper and Middle Dordogne, but gabares continued to ply their trade on the Lower Dordogne until the 1950's.
Today, only a few gabares remain on the river transporting tourists and the memories of that bygone era.
Bon voyage et à bientôt! Jack
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We enjoy sharing information about the fantastic medieval villages that surround the Dordogne River Valley. Certainly one of the most unique is: Collonges-la-Rouge, a picture perfect village to explore with your camera.
Located in the adjacent department of Corrèze, like Carennac it shares the distinction of being on the ‘list’ of the most beautiful villages of France. Collonges-la-Rouge is very old: the first records of town activity date back from 783AD. The village retains much of its old charm, even to the badly paved roads lined by homes from the 15th to 17th century.
The 12th century church is heavily fortified as are many of the private residences with watch towers, turrets and defensive loopholes – all of which were very wise precautions during the Hundred Years’ War and continue to be excellent defensive measures against the tourists every July & August!
So why not come check it out for yourself? The natives are quite friendly and tourists few during the balance of the year!
à bientôt! Jack
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