Tales from

the Loir

A Weekly Column


November 21, 2001 - Pig II

Pig II

The pig story was so popular that I have to do a followup. I am a little surprised that so many people have witnessed a pig slaughter. It seems that many Americans remember it, like me, from their youth. For others who worked on farms it was hard work and not a pleasant memory. My French friends remember it quite differently. For them it is a pleasant memory of celebration, family and fellowship.

Here is a translation of a letter that I received from Pierre and Claude Chene who grew up in the French countryside west of Bordeaux:

Chers Amis,

Your last email on the subject surrounding the traditions of the pig takes our memories back more than fifty years. We have a little to add on the subject of the boudin noir (blood sausage).

In the Gironde and the Dordogne (perhaps elsewhere), a ceremony existed on the day of the cooking of the boudin. It was a true ritual. On the third morning, the women cleaned vast quantities of leeks, carrots and turnips. The men prepared the wood to feed the fires under large cast iron pots in the fireplace. Then everyone would spread out through the village to invite all of the other families to come precisely at six or seven o'clock in the evening share the gimbourra (the vegetable soup created from making blood sausage). In effect, the cooking of the blood sausage was done by soaking several meters of the sausages in the soup of vegetables. The sausages were connected by strips of wicker. It was a true art because if the sausage touched the edge of the hot pot it would explode. ( I hate it when that happens). There was always someone who accidentally dropped his knife in the soup and that was okay because it added to the taste of the soup.

As soon as the sausages were cooked, they were carefully laid in a large wicker basket covered with linen cloth. The whole basket was also carefully covered to insure that the sausage cooled slowly during the night. The next day the sausages were stretched on strings in the attic to dry. When the boyau (the intestines used to hold the sausage together) dried, what a delicious treat during the winter months. Just put them on the grilled with a little butter.

At the precise hour of the invitation, the neighbors would arrive to form a line. The smells of the cooking sausage put everyone in a good humor. My grandparents would usually slip a pork chop or sausage in the baskets of the older people, especially those living alone. Nostalgia...? Yeah, but these simple moments of rejoicing brought so much warmth and happiness.

Even if there is no gimbourra in your marmite, I hope that the fire in your hearth will warm you.

Claude Chene
(a/k/a La Dame de Moulin de Beaume)

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 November 14, 2001 - Pigs
 October 31, 2001 - The Ghost of Chateau Chevre
 October 25 - Battle of Poitiers
 August 22, 2001 - Confrerie
 August 15, 2001 - Liberation
 August 8, 2001 - Le Cyclop
 August 1, 2001 - The Finger
July 25, 2001 - La Resistance
July 18, 2001 - System D
July 11, 2001 - The Accident
July 4, 2001 - Ange Pitou
June 27, 2001 - Feu de Saint Jean
June 20, 2001 - Geoffroy Martel
June 13, 2001 - Saint of the Day
June 6, 2001 - Escapade dans le Berry
May 30, 2001 - Learning French
May 23, 2001 - Pete and Manny
May 16, 2001 - Les Journees des Aubepines
May 8, 2001 - Armistice Day
May 2, 2001 - May Day
April 25, 2001 - Les Manouches
April 18, 2001 - Trôo
April 11, 2001 - Le P'tit Jules
April 4, 2001 - Men and Their Caves 
Archive of Weekly Columns Jan-Apr 2001
Archive of Weekly Columns from 2000


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