Let’s resume our tour de French cuisine and match culinary specialties with their regions. Last week, we scanned the northern part of France and finished with Brittany. Now is time to head South along the western regions and unveil what they have to offer.
On the Southern Highway
In the beautiful region of Saône-et-Loire, you will have many opportunities to taste “fromage de tête”, known as brawn in British English or head cheese in American English. What kind of cheese is that, you are asking? Truth is, this is not cheese but cold meat and what you don’t want to know about it is that it made from the head of a calf or a pig, sometimes including the tongue, feet and heart. All of it prepared with jelly – a tasty delicacy but best not to regard the ingredients.
Further down lies the Aquitaine region, an ideal destination for warm weather and high waves, perfect for surfing. As far as food is concerned, the specialty is the controversial foie gras. This is one of the finest pâté available, especially with warm toast and berry jam. However, the way geese are force-fed is seen by many as animal cruelty. A thorny ethical decision.
The largest city in the Aquitaine region is Bordeaux which cannot be mentioned without an instant association to Bordeaux wine. The king of wines, many connoisseurs say, can be enjoyed sometimes centuries after it was bottled in. Others call it a heavy wine for old snobs – each and every French person has an opinion, of course!
Nearby, in the beautiful city of Agen you can find a multitude of ways to eat prunes – the famous “pruneaux d’Agen.” Something as simple as plums become completely reinvented here – stuffed with pistachios, cinnamon or jam, dipped in liquor, chocolate or strawberry sauce; there are thousands of ways to enjoy the Agen prunes.
The Centre of France
In the very middle of the Massif Central, the department of Allier, Auvergne has many mountains and caves to explore. Chances are you never heard of any of them, yet there is something about this region you may recognise: “coq au vin”. A traditional coq au vin comes with lardons, mushroom and of course, wine. The recipe has recently received attention via the German movie Kokowääh, an unusual title meant to indicate how one pronounces the dish… If you can read German that is.