A Culinary Journey in Gascony


by Kate Hill, Ten Speed Press, 2004 revised edition of the 1995 publication. A treasure. Certainly one of the best in-depth cookbooks of that region, and one that also serves as a travelogue and local food products guide.

The American author first came to love this rural part of France 15 years go as the owner-operator of a canal boat along the Garrone River and a zeal to learn to cook the region’s rustic dishes – and soon started planting and farming the local ingredients.

The book is crammed with had-colored maps and color and black & white photographs of the region and the food. Hill presents more than 80 recipes.

Located east and south of Bordeaux, Gascony is the region of the duck – of foie gras, confit and rillettes – of Roquefort and truffles, of prunes and Armagnac and cassoulet. “Not found on modern maps,” she writes in her introduction, “Gascony is tidily contained by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Pryenees to the south while the Garonne River forms the northern and eastern borders.”

I didn’t know much about the area, nor the cuisine. Turns out, neither did experienced food writer Michael Ruhlman, who in a recent article in Condé Nast Magazine, got his first hint:

“I’d come forewarned,” he wrote. “Ariane Daguin, who runs the New Jersey-based food company D'Artagnan, is a true Gascon … She had told me, ‘Gascony is the best region in the world, period. The quality of life, the weather, the beauty of the country. People say, 'Oh, Tuscany, Tuscany.' They have never been to Gascony.' Donna (Ruhlman’s wife) and I had just come from Tuscany, and now we understood precisely what Daguin meant.”

In the intervening years, the author has docked her houseboat in Camont and has carved out a business holding cooking classes there, including a three-day class on the Duck: From Foie Gras to confit” and a month-long class on French butchery and charcuterie. This book almost takes you there.

Oversized trade paperback, 192 pages. Condition: VG+.

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