When friends and family ask me now about the Piette trip and why I enjoyed it so much, I usually give them a pretty standard answer about scenic the country was and how great the food was and how different the culture was, but in reality, what made the trip so memorable was far beyond the standard reasons people love to visit France (however valid they may be). What really made the trip so fantastic for me wasn’t the usual joy of travelling, but rather the privilege of being able to share it with a close, dynamic group of fellow Andover students. While we may not have all been exceptionally good friends- or even aquaintances- at the beginning of the trip, I feel I can now say that we’ve all found a new family on campus: the Piette fam. Each day, the group embarked ready and eager to learn new things and encounter new experiences. In discussions of history, art, culture and archaeology, the group was always able to provide new points and perspectives that greatly improved my appreciation of the materials and topics. From the Upper Gîte to the Queer Table, each of the relationships I formed during the trip greatly enriched my time abroad. I’m so glad to have shared my experience in France with the rest of the Piette group, and I hope our shared experience will enable us to bring a new perspective back to campus.
Thanks Piette fam- couldn’t have done it without you. Photo credits to Sophie Miller.
Just as Normandy is known for its cows, the Perigôrd is famous for its ducks and geese. Though I don’t share the same love for ducks and geese as I do for cows, I’m just as enthusiastic about eating them, and our stay in Sarlat provided quite the opportunity. Whether in the form of fois gras, mousse, pate, confit, magret or liver, each restaurant and shop we visited offered some delicious dish at the expense of our feathered friends.
Since almost all of the duck and/or goose dishes we had in Sarlat were absolutely fantastic, it’s easier for me to walk through a typical Perigord menu than to choose a best dish. For the entrées (appetizers), most Perigôrd restaurants give you a choice between toast with fois gras, sometimes accompanied by a light side salad, and an omelet with cèpes, a type of savory mushroom indigenous to the region. Now, the fois gras entrée comes in many other forms as well; while each restaurant presents its own slight variation- a bloc with walnut toast, a sliver on baguette, a slightly diluted goose liver pâté- almost all present some combination of fois gras, bread, and salad. Next, for the plats (main dishes), the typical Sarlat restaurant would offer a choice between a large bloc of fois gras with goat cheese salad, some fairly standard fish dish, and one of several permutations of duck. The two most common were confit, a type of preserved duck breast, and magret, a roasted duck breast sliced into medallions. Both were often served with roasted potatoes with herbs and either an orange or truffle sauce. Other servings of duck were also common- a pan-fried duck liver with peach sauce was one of the best dishes I had in Sarlat. Lastly, for the dessert, you would often find a choice between walnut cake (seeing as walnuts are another regional specialty), ice cream, and profiteroles.
I love cows. They truly have it all: adorable faces, chill personalities, delicious dairy products, and glorious red meat. What other animal provides such a perfect combination of friend and food capabilities? To those who know me, my love of cows is very clear. My dorm room is decorated with pictures and postcards of cows from around the world, and so far on the trip I’ve already purchased a number of cards to add to this collection. If you asked my friends what my life motto is, I’m positive “butter makes it better” would be at the top of the list (alongside “fat equals flavor” and “if you haven’t had one or two weird diseases in your life, you’re not doing it right”). I drink my coffee with pure whipping cream instead of half-and-half, and I’ve been known to make some ungodly sounds over a good steak. I LOVE cows.
Travelling across the various regions of France, you’ll see each one touting its own “regional specialties”. The region of Normandy is known, among many things, as cow country, so as you can imagine, I was thrilled about the prospect of a visit. I began to get even more excited as we started to roll through the cow-dotted landscapes around Giverny and Caen.
There are many ways Normandy celebrates its bovine renown. Ordering a dish with “Normande” in the name off of a local menu will almost certainly guarantee you some delicious cream or cheese. Many restaurants and shops in the region specifically advertise their dairy products as locally made in Normandy (and not just in the region- a lot of the butter you find in French supermarkets also touts “fabrique en Normandie”). The two most memorable cow inspired dishes I had while there were a seared entrecôte, a cut of steak equivalent to a sirloin, and a “Galette Normande”, a buckwheat crepe featuring apples, cream, onions and emmental cheese. It’s safe to say that cow country did not disappoint.