Duck Season

Duck Season : Eating, Drinking, and Other Misadventures in Gascony--France's Last Best Place

4.07 (203 ratings by Goodreads)
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A delicious memoir about the eight months food writer David McAninch spent in Gascony--a deeply rural region of France virtually untouched by mass tourism--meeting extraordinary characters and eating the best meals of his life.

Though he'd been a card-carrying Francophile all of his life, David McAninch knew little about Gascony, an ancient region in Southwest France mostly overlooked by Americans. Then an assignment sent him to research a story on duck. After enjoying a string of rich meals--Armagnac-flambéed duck tenderloins; skewered duck hearts with chanterelles; a duck-confit shepherd's pie strewn with shavings of foie gras--he soon realized what he'd been missing.

McAninch decided he needed a more permanent fix. He'd fallen in love--not only with the food but with the people, and with the sheer unspoiled beauty of the place. So, along with his wife and young daughter, he moved to an old millhouse in the small village of Plaisance du Gers, where they would spend the next eight months living as Gascons. Duck Season is the delightful, mouthwatering chronicle of McAninch's time in this tradition-bound corner of France. There he herds sheep in the Pyrenees, harvests grapes, attends a pig slaughter, hunts for pigeons, distills Armagnac, and, of course, makes and eats all manner of delicious duck specialties--learning to rewire his own thinking about cooking, eating, drinking, and the art of living a full and happy life.

With wit and warmth, McAninch brings us deep into this enchanting world, where eating what makes you happy isn't a sin but a commandment and where, to the eternal surprise of outsiders, locals' life expectancy is higher than in any other region of France. Featuring a dozen choice recipes and beautiful line drawings, Duck Season is an irresistible treat for Francophiles and gourmands alike.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 157 x 229 x 25mm | 454g
  • English
  • Illustrations, unspecified
  • 0062309412
  • 9780062309419
  • 773,601

Back cover copy

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 départements 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 gâteau à 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.
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Review quote

"This is the definitive book on the Gascon spirit...readers of any origin will want to buy a plane ticket to the Southwest of France the minute they put down the book."--Ariane Daguin, founder and CEO of D'Artagnan Foods and a James Beard Foundation Awards Committee member
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Rating details

203 ratings
4.07 out of 5 stars
5 31% (63)
4 48% (97)
3 20% (40)
2 1% (2)
1 0% (1)
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