A Culinary Journey in Gascony is a
book for cooks, daydreamers and romantics. The author, Kate Hill, lives
on a barge that travels the Canal Latéral à la Garonne,
a canal in Southwestern France that runs parallel to the Garonne River.
She invites the reader to travel the canal with her, stopping to explore
ancient medieval towns, markets filled with cured hams and foie gras,
fields of wild garlic, leeks, and blackberries ripening in the sun.
She travels on through orchards that provide the confitures of
France and through the great vineyards. The author herself describes
this life on a barge as "an imaginary duchy, a romantic idea of
a homeland, a way of living outside this time."
Divided into six chapters, each a day of
sailing, we meet cooks who possess both ancient recipes and the secrets
that make them special. This is the country of foie gras and great Bordeaux
wines, of the unique brandy called Armagnac, and each of these days
tells of the local foods and the customs that surround the foods, be
they aperitifs and the finger food that goes with them or the "ever-present
soup course" which Hill describes as "a prelude to the style
and flavors to follow." She takes us into markets to buy the foodstuffs
for entrées, main courses and vegetables. The journey ends, as
does a satisfying meal, with a chapter on desserts made with peaches,
pears and apples found in the orchards on the way, and cooked into custards
or tarts. For a change of pace, there's "crepes and chocolate tower.'
For those who want to cook authentically,
the book is packed with clear, easy to follow recipes (eighty in all)
from radish leaf soup or tomato tart to poule au pot and paupiettes
de veau. To help us see this romantic landscape more clearly the
book is illustrated with both black and white and color photos taken
along the route.