Duck, Goose, Foie Gras, Cassoulet, Madiran, Armagnac and all the other good rich produce of the land feature in Martin Calder’s book A Summer in Gascony: Discovering the Other South of France which offers a good summer read if you are interested in absorbing a bit of “la France profonde”.

This is the story of a student summer working in Gascony a few years ago, based at the isolated Auberge in Peguilhan (31 Haut-Garonne, Midi-Pyrenees)in the Comminges area of Gascony. Staying several months on a working farm and auberge gives a different and well-informed and affectionate view of the land, its people and traditions. I suspect many of us head south to try to capture just a glimpse of the essence of a place where people and nature seem to have found a natural harmony, enriched by the bounteous harvest of its farmers and winemakers. In between the story of the summer’s work and play Martin Calder offers you a wealth of snippets of information, whether it be about the wine (and Armagnac), the history (and the links between the Gascons and the British), the fiercely independent Gascon character (decidedly not French!), the Gascon beret and tradtional cooking. It is perhaps the sense of being distant from the pressures of modern city life which pervades the region – the rhythms of the seasons and the weather. I suspect that much has changed at the auberge since his days at Peguilhan (as suggested in his epilogue), but Gascony still has many quiet hidden corners; the people remain as down-to-earth and welcoming, the food, wine and Armagnac as good as ever.
A Summer in Gascony: Discovering the Other South of France

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