Sunday, 2 March 2008

The Chasse Dinner

Hunting can be an emotive topic; different people see it in different ways. I personally don’t like the idea of hunting with pack hounds or hunting just for the ‘thrill of the kill’ to be able to say you’ve killed X brace that you have no intention of eating.

Hunting is ingrained in France. Every Sunday I can watch the hunters striding across the fields round here, looking for something for the pot or to freeze away for later. That I can accept, I am an omnivore and I’d rather eat rabbit that has had a natural life than a chicken that’s been raised in a battery farm.

When I came to France I had the belief that since they shot and ate everything that moved here, there would be no wild life. Anyone living here will tell you the opposite is true. This is partly because when the huntsmen get out of their little white vans, they spend the next 20 minutes yelling at their dogs to try and control them. Just about all of the wildlife in the surrounding area has been alerted to their presence and gone to ground. The huntsmen then spend the next couple of hours ‘working’ the dogs along the hedges and ditches, hoping to spring a hare or partridge. Working is in quotes as the dogs usually do what they want and are far to far ahead to be of any use. Still the men and dogs get a good walk out of it. On top of that, the French guard their game and they all seem to have a small wood somewhere that supports the wildlife.

Occasionally the local hunt group is called out to deal with a problem. Here it’s either Roe Deer or Wild Boar. Both can cause a lot of damage to crops if they are left unchecked and neither have a natural predator apart from man. That said, I have seen far more deer (and hares and birds of prey etc) here than I did in the countryside back in the UK, and my neighbour saw a wild boar family in the local woods only last week.

All of which brings me back to the title, the Chasse dinner. Today was the day of their annual repas and in usual fashion for here it was bring your own crockery and cutlery and settle down for the afternoon. The Expat group arrived fashionable late, well only half an hour as we knew it wouldn’t start until at least an hour after the stated start time. We took our seats at 12:30, we finally rose again at nearly 19:00!

The meal was superb:

  • It started with an aperitif
  • next came soup – a consommĂ© with sago, it did look a bit like frogspawn but it tasted divine
  • following that we were treated to a piece of salmon poached in a champagne and cream sauce
  • and the final starter was venison cooked in red wine sauce
  • to make way for the main courses we had a ‘trou Gascon’, to make a ‘hole’ so we could eat more. This was basically a small amount of eau de vie (fire water) with a little sorbet in it. It did the job and ate it’s way through.
  • then the first part of the main course, venison roasted over the massive log fires that had been lit in the car park. Seconds and thirds came round too.
  • the venison was followed by roasted boar and as with the venison there were thirds of that as well.
  • all this was accompanied by red and white wine from the nearby domaine of Cotes de Duras
  • after everyone had had their fill of venison and boar there was brie and salade (salade is lettuce only here in France)
  • now we were into the home stretch and it was desert. Someone in the group described this as the French take on trifle. It was two layers of really light sponge sandwiched together with vanilla custard with fruit salad in the custard layer.
  • next up was a digestif of a fizzy wine
  • and to round it all off a coffee
All that cost an amazing 18€ (around £15) only. A wonderful time was had by all and somehow I’ve got roped into playing boules on the 16th. It’s foreigners versus the French. As none of us Expats have played before I think it’s going to be a bit of a foregone conclusion as to who will win. But then it’s not the wining that counts; it’s the taking part.


Anonymous said...

you need to be extremely careful blogging this kind of thing. If my OH finds out about the £15 for all that meat, you'll have him as a visitor. Permanently. :D

glad you had a good time - you deserve it, i think, after all your hard work!


Living the Dream said...

Hello, we have our hunt dinner at the end of this month so we are starving ourselves now. They are quite incredible aren't they? What you say about the blogging world is oh so true, I didn't think I would like it at all, but would just have a go!! Have a go?? I am addicted and love it, as you say, hearing from so many people around the world is magic. Take care

Debra in France said...

Hi dnd, what a wonderful meal. How they manage to do it all for the price is incredible. I find it difficult to take part in village meal as I have been vegetarian since I was 7.

dND said...

I think being a vegetarian in France must be really difficult. Not that there are no vegetables, far from it but eating out just doesn't go beyond pizza or omelette if you want meat free