Every year, the nearby ‘big town‘ to my parents’ village hosts a Festival Viticole et Gourmand (Wine and Food Festival). It is gloriously local and slow-food. No real social media, no real hashtags (well, they exist but are not used). No well-intentioned hipsters snapping away on their iPhones.
All that was going to change today (except I’m too old to be a hipster). Today was the day where my mum and I would partake in a 9 am casse-croûte (French for ‘Breaking the Crust’) of pigs’ trotters cooked in white wine with onions. Served with chilled local white wine from Saint Pourçain. And followed an hour later by a cookery demonstration of Pompe aux Gratons* (local delicacy: a brioche bun studded with pork fat ‘scraped’ (in French: Gratter, hence the name) from under the skin. And I would feel very self-conscious snapping away with my phone. But if the event doesn’t make it into cyber-space, has it happened at all?
I have always loved our local events. They unfailingly involve good hearty food, cheap wine, and lashings of merriment with lots of people we know more or less. And the ones we know, we have known for what feels like forever. Every year there are some more wrinkles, but also more children, or bigger children. Or grand-children. In my mind’s eye it is always sunny and hot. In my real mind I remember one spectacular year where one uncle won all the (very cheap) bottles of red wine prizes at the shooting range (they weren’t to know he had been a sharp-shooter in the army) and his brother proceeded to auction off his sister-in-law (beautiful Danish girl) to the highest bidder. Not sure the 2016 version of me would find it hilarious (feminism and all), but the circa 1985 one thought it was. And the spirit of it certainly was.
But I digress. Again.
Back in 2016, the whole family had been joking about my dedication to the fine art of food since it meant getting up way earlier than usual. We half expected the event (in a neighbouring even smaller village) to be attended by a handful of local die-hards. More the fools us!
When we clocked up at 8:50 am the looong tables were laid out in the sun, with wine glasses at the ready. And it was not only sold out but had a waiting list.
Make sure you switch on your sound to get the full impression in this sun-drenched video: Casse-Croute Pieds de Cochon
We couldn’t stand the thought of watching others licking their chops while we stood waiting for crumbs, so we bought a Pompe aux Gratons baked in a wood fired oven, snapped a pic of the President de la Confrérie de la Pompe aux Gratons (aka Le Grand Gratonnier) and one of his acolytes, and left with a mental note to book ahead next year.
If you want to try this recipe at home, get the fattiest unsmoked bacon pieces you can and cut them very small.
Recipe for Pompe aux Gratons:
1 kg flour
300-400 g of lard (or butter)
300-400 g of gratons
20 g yeast
20 g salt
0.375 l water
Mix flour with water, yeast, salt and gratons. When the dough is supple and doesn’t stick to your fingers, form a ball, cover and leave to rise for 1-2 hours at 30 C temperature.
Pre-heat oven to 180 C and bake for about 50 minutes.
Enjoy cooled or cold for aperitif with tipple of your choice.
On the way home we stopped at another event where they teach small and big kids to fish, but more importantly serve a lunch of Petite Friture (Fried White Bait). As is wont and completely necessary, the ‘buvette’ was already packed (9:30 am) with ‘helpers’ scoffing (what else) Pompe aux Grattons, garlic sausage in baguette and swigging glasses of rosé. Oh what I wouldn’t have given to not be gluten intolerant today!
Hungrier but wiser, we booked our lunch and our fishing poles for later in the day. The lunch, as is often the case for big catered events, was presented on plastic trays but the esthetics bely the taste: freshly prepared Salade Piemontaise (potatoes, egg, ham, cornichons in a mayonnaise dressing), freshly deep-fried crispy Petite Friture, some crisps, a nice pungent Camenbert, a fresh juicy peach and lots of fresh baguette. We didn’t catch any trout today (despite it being a bit like shooting them in the proverbial barrel), but am so so proud of our 9 year old who gamely ate several whole fish for lunch: heads, eyes, scales, guts n’all. Well done, Miss C!
*Foodie tip: if you buy your Pompe aux Grattons at the baker’s the brioche is great but there are fewer ‘grattons’; if you buy it at the butcher’s there are lots of ‘grattons’ but the brioche is not as delicious.