Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pourquoi le poulet a-t-il traversé la route?

To get to the garlic and basil festival, naturally. Every July 26th, on the Feast Day of Saint Anne (the patron saint of joiners and cabinetmakers), local producers of garlic and basil, along with other vendors of fruits and vegetables and cheap clothes and bric-a-brac, fill the four streets around the Grand Marché in the center of town. Cafes set their tables and chairs up along the sidewalk, and you can buy freshly-made 100% buckwheat flour crêpes (as I did, with a slice of ham for a late breakfast) or andouillette au Vouvray, thin pork sausages simmered in wine with sliced onions then grilled. The fair has been going on since at least the late 18th century, though tradition has it that it started in the Middle Ages.

The tourteau fromager is a traditional bread of the Poitou-Charentes region of France, a little further down the Loire Valley from Tours. It's a sweet cheese bread made with flour and butter, soft white cheese (often chèvre; the capital of the region, Poitiers, is more or less ground central for goat cheese), and sugar. The upper crust of carbonized and caramelized sugar is part of the charm, I was told, but the bread stays very tender inside.

I bought a handful of garlic and a strand of shallots, and way too many green beans. I bought small fragrant melons that I have been eating for breakfast this week, and fresh tarragon and basil. I only found one booth where basil was being sold loose; most vendors were selling plants in pots. The vendor also had a box of some sort of herb from Madagascar whose name I didn't recognize or write down for later research, but he invited me to taste it. A sort of lemony-astringent flavor that made my tongue start tingling. "Dentists used to use this as a local anasthetic," the vendor said as I chewed. I was ready for an extraction at that point. "It's an interesting taste," I replied. "Well, you have to get used to it," he remarked. "But it's good for preventing scurvy."

I couldn't stay to find out more about herbal medicine or medieval dental surgery, as I had a chicken waiting for me at home.

A somewhat accusing look.What the hell is the bright red stuff?

I will admit that it is definitely possible to buy chicken here at the supermarché that's all nicely cleaned and cut up and wrapped in plastic without the head or feet included, but when I saw these chickens at the meat counter of the natural foods store, I had to buy one, just for the blogging. The butcher offered to clean and prepare it for me, but I explained that I needed to take photos to appall my friends back in the United States. It was all wrapped up in a black ribbon, which was nicely funereal, I thought. I won't be buying many chickens, though, because meat is not exactly cheap here, or at least not at the natural foods store. Monsieur here (ou peut-être "Madame") set me back about $20. I roasted it with garlic and tarragon, of course.


Roast Chicken With Tarragon and Garlic

one chicken, with or without head
three heads of garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
three tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
a dozen branches fresh tarragon

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Put the cleaned chicken in a roasting pan with the garlic. Pour the olive oil over, rubbing the oil into the chicken and tossing the garlic in the oil as well. Salt and pepper the chicken generously, and top with the tarragon branches. Cover the pan and roast for an hour and fifteen minutes (an hour and a half if your chicken is larger than this one, which was pretty small). Serve with fresh green beans, a dollop of Dijon mustard, and the roasted garlic cloves to squeeze on top.


  1. I had to go and and count our chickens to reassure myself that all beaks were present and accounted for. Great photos - feels like I'm almost there enjoying the scents and sights.

  2. Assuming this is Anonymous Mom, I hope we can enjoy many sights and sounds together next year! Don't bring the chickens with you, though.

  3. Great post, mademoiselle! I'm looking forward to many more......