EATING IN THE GERS
Intensely rural, sprinkled with small traditional family farms and overflowing with the good things of the earth, the Gers serves up a hearty cuisine of fresh ingredients, so delicious that eating and drinking are two of the most compelling reasons to visit!
'C'est le pays du bien vivre et du bon manger', say the Gascons of their fertile, generous country. In the face of modern dietary theory, its sticks to its age-old traditions, based on meat and poultry. The Gers produces much of France’s foie gras, the enlarged liver of either a goose (oie) or duck (canard). The fresh foie gras comes cooked (mi-cuit) in a frying pan and served with slices of toasted pain de campagne; a favourite Gascon way of serving it is with grapes lightly sautéed in Armagnac, or with apples fried in the fat. Magrets are duck breasts, best simply served with a fruit or port jus or in the autumn with fresh cèpes. The remaining parts of the goose or duck hardly go to waste: thighs, legs or wings are preserved as confits. The neck (cou) is a delicacy and gésiers (gizzards) go into a salade Gascon. Any meat left over is made into sausages, patés, terrines and rillons. Even the carcasses don’t go to waste and are served up at summer fetes as demoiselles, for people to pick up in their hands and knaw every last bit of meat off! Duck and goose fat, of course, makes excellent roast potatoes. If you find all this distressingly rich, there is another 'green' side to the Gascon food basket, but recent studies show that the basic southwestern diet, with red wine and armagnac, is actually good for you. Heart disease is one of the lowest in Europe and many locals live well into their nineties.
In most villages, market day is the event of the week, quite a social occasion. Celebrated for their fresh farm produce, markets are fun to visit, and are even more interesting if you're on a self-catering holiday or gathering ingredients for a picnic. Markets in this quiet, gentle region come alive in spring with fresh young artichokes, peas and asparagus; juicy sweet tomatoes, young salad greens, tasty white and yellow peaches and melons from Lectoure in summer. In autumn, when the rich and colourful abundance of autumn harvest is evident, the market stalls are laden with freshly picked cèpes, red-skinned pumpkins and walnuts. And to finish off the year, an array of seafood for the Christmas festivities. The Gers is now hosting a truffle market, in the winter months, at Seissan, south of the short term rental gite in Auch. Although the market is small, the locals hope it will grow to the size of Lalbenque, near Cahors in the Lot, where large quantities of truffles are sold both commercially and privately at around 800 euros per kilo. There's also some great vacation rental in Eauze.
Traditional Gascon desserts are somewhat rarer and invariably feature a generous nip of Armagnac! Prunes from Agen, are marinated in armagnac and orange blossom water and topped with paper-thin pastry called pastis. When apples replace the prunes it is called a croustade, a deliciously light Gascon speciality.
So, no visitor to Gascony should go hungry. Most restaurants serve a 2 or 3 course lunch for under 12 euros with wine. But the area has its share of smarter, more expensive restaurants staying loyal to local produce but with a more modern, lighter influence.
And then there's the wine and armagnac...!!