Welcome to Gascony, the other South of France: a land where ducks outnumber people twenty to one, tourists are few, wine is still the midday drink of choice, and eating to your heart's content is not a sin but a commandment.
In this indelibly smart, affectionate culinary memoir, food writer and lifelong Francophile DavidMcAninch chronicles an eight-month epicurean journey in France's rural Southwest: the ancient Gallic cradle of foie gras, confit, and magret de canard, among other duck-centric delicacies. Intrigued by Gascony since traveling there on assignment for a cooking magazine, McAninch persuaded his wife and young daughter to move to a small, unprepossessing village in the Gers--Gascony's heartland and one of the least urbanized departements in all of France--and attempt to live as the Gascons do.
Installing his family in a drafty, two-hundred-year-old former textile mill straddling a river, McAninch sets out to master ultratraditional--and unabashedly rich--Gascon dishes, like wine-braised duck legs, poule au pot, garbure (a meaty peasant soup), and cured duck breast, and rustic yet exceedingly hard-to-pull-off desserts, including the formidable hearth-baked confection known as gateau a la broche. He provisions his meals at the weekly market; imbibes the inky local wines; immerses himself in Gascony's history and folklore; and takes part, occasionally at the cost of his pride, in such local rites of passage as the pigeon hunt, the wine harvest, and the distillation of Armagnac. When McAninch succeeds in these endeavors--and even more so when he doesn't--he learns some unexpected things about his potential as a cook, and ultimately undergoes a fundamental rewiring in the way he thinks about food, wine, and life in general.
Above all, he comes away with a profound, keen understanding of this remarkable corner of France--and with a personal education in the indomitable joie de vivre of the Gascons, who, despite their immense appetites, enjoy the longest lifespan of any regional population in France. The locals he seeks out as mentors and teachers--a matronly home cook, an octogenarian chef, a genteel winemaker, a pedantic historian, an ex--rugby player, a Basque shepherd, a former undertaker, and various other bon vivants and gourmands--prove to be the living embodiment of the deeply held French belief that joyful eating and drinking is not a privilege but a right.
Beautifully illustrated with whimsical drawings and featuring a wonderful appendix of classic recipes, Duck Season is an irresistible invitation to embrace the pleasures of the table--guiltlessly and with gusto--and it joins such books as A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun in the canon of sensual, food-infused memoirs of European country life.show more