What happens in the Pyrenees doesn’t always stay in the mountains.
Like the kiss and tell excitement of new love- discovering a new place, great food and the nicest people in the world- I can’t wait to share a few souvenirs from my most recent trip to the Pays Basque and the high valleys of the Pyrenees.
Snow on rocks. Being a born and bred island grrl, I am more salty sea then lofty peaks. But something about these Pyrenees peaks touch me. Maybe it’s the way the snowy high pasture melt into grass green slopes. The early spring warm winds create the Foehn effect sending warm dry air swooping down the leeward side of the mountains creating a perfect micro climate for curing hams. And hams we found in all shapes, sizes and pig breeds. But sometimes the unexpected is what makes you happiest. Looking for hams and black-bottomed pigs, we discovered friendship.
Meet my new best friends- Josette and Gerard.
Josette Arrayat and Gerard Bordagaray raise pigs- black bottomed, lop-eared, and meaty Basque pigs that are destined to become some of the finest hams in France. When I found out that Josette was the former head of the Filière de Porc Basque and knew all about the birth of this association, the breed and raised the breed, I was more than willing to make the trip across the mountains to find her. When I found out that Josette was Basque-American and graduated from UC Davis with an Animal Science degree, I was overjoyed. I could ask her all the questions I had without worrying about my BFA (Bad French Accent) and in-delicate curiosity. So after a quick phone call in which Josette insisted on meeting us in the supermarket parking lot at Lasse, off we flew along the snowy peaks and cleared roads for this rendezvous. A rendezvous with passion…
Where does it begin?
“It” being the Frenchness of the good food made here in Gascony.
“It” being the idea for recipe.
“It’ is an homage to a certain way of life. My life.
For me, it begins and ends 100% with a list of names that sketch across the Gascon landscape like 18th Century signatures.
Jehanne = foie gras, rillettes, vin de peche.
Narcisse = amber bramble honey
Pierre = dense and crusty baguettes
Chapolard = charcuterie- deep and porky
And most newly arrived at the Saturday Market at Nerac…
Marie de Chèvre = Creamy goaty goodness, clean sweet hay milk transformed into a plateau of delicious chèvre. And what did I do with the 4 creamy fresh faiselles I scored? Here’s my recipe for les petit gateaux de Marie.