P1070714All winter long, the hunters end their Sunday morning sorties with coffee at the community hall, dead beasts strapped to the hoods of their vehicles parked outside. In spring, they return, this time to eat.

On the menu: sanglier (wild boar) and chevreuil (roe deer, a small breed, 25-70 pounds). Of course, the Carnivore wanted to go.

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Boars on the left, deer on the right.

Early in the morning, under the bridge next to the community hall, a fire was started with pieds de vigne (stumps of grape vines). A huge rotisserie (clearly jury-rigged) started turning, two sangliers and one chevreuil. Like many of the diners, I went down the river bank to take pictures of the skewered hulks. A knot of retirees with well-endowed abdomens discussed the scene, as the head cook used a huge dipper (also jury-rigged) to collect the drippings and pour them over the turning meat. P1070692“Mmmmm,” one groaned with pleasure. “Ça, c’est bon.”  (That’s good.)

“Oui,” moaned another, adding a bit plaintively, “Pour le cholestérol aussi.” (For the cholesterol, too.)

“Bah, j’ai déjà fait un infarc,” says yet another. (Oh, I already had a heart attack.)

“Moi, deux.” (I had two.)

Then they went into details about how many arteries and stents and hospitals and I had to flee before my appetite was ruined.

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Here you can better see how a regular dipper was welded onto a long handle.
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The homemade rotisserie motor, electric powered, thanks to a very long extension cord.
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Boar.
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Boar juice.

The apéritif started as usual, outside under the porch of the community hall. A long table with pitchers of white and rosé wine, and bottles of Ricard. Don’t even think about any other brand of pastis around here. Although nobody orders a Ricard or even a pastis. They say “un jaune”–a yellow–because the alcohol oxidizes with water and turns a milky yellow.

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Bring your own silverware, plates, glasses and napkins. Rings optional. This was a classy bunch. Opinel pocket knives, EXTREMELY sharp.
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Unsurprisingly, in a region of winegrowers, some prefer to come with their own, although a very good wine was included with the dinner.
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The pitcher is of the house wine. The small glass with a spoon holds salad dressing.

The hunters’ gathering was different from others we have attended. Besides the extreme paucity of women and absence of children (just one boy), the demographic was decidedly older, heavier and had many more smokers. It didn’t seem that they didn’t care; instead it seemed that they DID care, especially about giving a big middle finger to rules and “shoulds” about healthy eating and moderation. On the other hand, I never saw so many people for whom the first description would be “jolly.” The cooks, especially. Big guys, their sagging, faded T-shirts stained with smoke and sweat, beaming with pride, their nonstop chuckles occasionally bubbling up into raucous belly laughs. Just recalling them makes me smile.

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Some greenery under the gizzards and foie gras.

Anyway, they know how to cook. The first course was a salad, topped with walnuts, warm duck gizzards and a slice of foie gras. Then, after a leisurely pause, came trays groaning with sanglier. It was so heavy, our tray bent and landed on the table (without damage). There was a huge tray for every 10 people or so.P1070701The boar was served with potatoes that had roasted in the juices of the meat, and sliced onions also cooked in the meat juices. OMG.P1070705The meat itself was perfectly seasoned. With what? The cooks played coy (not just with me; a woman at the next table also tried, unsuccessfully, to wheedle the secret out of them). This led to a big discussion of what each diner detected: mustard, thyme, harissa….and of course the cloves of garlic stuck into the meat all over.

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Look at the size of that bone! They were all collected for the hunters’ dogs, which waited outside.

The trays were refilled with more sanglier. As if we weren’t all stuffed.

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Deer.

Next, they came around with the chevreuil. I passed, but the Carnivore was in heaven.

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In all that deer meat, just a small bone. Guess whose plate?

This was followed, in its sweet time, by cheese–a wedge of brie and a chunk of roquefort. The dessert was crème brulée. Then coffee.

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This was shared among about 8 people.

P1070717There were three huge trays of meat left over. The meal, which started around 1:30, after the apéro, wound up around 5:30. We were all invited to come back for dinner at 8, though most of our fellow diners planned to go home and nap and to skip dinner altogether. We could hear them continue with Part II well into the night.

Oh, and the price? €13 per person, drinks included.

As with the Easter omelette and the fêtes du village, you can get in on these communal dinners. Just look at the notices at the local grocery stores and bakeries, which usually are also where you buy tickets. You need to bring your own cutlery, plates, glasses and napkins.P1070695

 

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24 thoughts on “When French Hunters Gather

  1. Our hunters gathering is held on the weekend that they also have the concours de chien where they compete to find the best hunting dogs. My young neighbour is very involved with the local chasse and warned me to be careful walking in the village on my own on the Saturday evening because, he said, there would be a lot of drunken men on the loose. I said I would go to the village the following morning instead … he eyed me gravely and said ‘you still need to be careful – they’ll all be drunk from the night before and they’ll start again at dawn!’ He was correct. Hunting is on the decline throughout France but on the increase as a woman’s sport as an aside. Not in our area and I would suggest, reading between the lines, not in yours but certainly near the bigger cities it is the case. As for that feast ….. it looks absolutely divine to my eyes! X

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    1. Interesting! Happily, most of the participants were no more than tipsy after the dinner in our village, and as it was on a Sunday, the next day was back to normal.
      My nieces, who all look like Barbies, are very good hunters, especially for deer, but also duck and goose. One even hunts with a bow and arrow.

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    1. Vegetarians need to eat ahead of time and just attend for the fun of the gathering. A week before was the fishermen’s dinner. They served fish, of course, and also a side of beef!
      I am starting to see real vegetarian options show up on menus, but at these communal affairs, it’s still very meat-centric.

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  2. I’d love to come for the camaraderie, not so much for the carnivore pleasure. After being a vegetarian for a long time, who now has eaten meat for over 10 years, I still am not a huge fan of seeing my dinner with legs and all. {I know! scaredy-cat} The fisherman’s dinner most likely would be more my thing. But…barring that, HOW FUN! And the French are always adept at setting a great table, even a “bring your own” toting everything in charming baskets. No paper plates for them. 🙂

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  3. Trev likes the sound of that.
    Me, I wouldn’ t thank you for the gizzards, I know everyone loves them down here.
    My son in law, who can eat more meat than most, would also enthuse, as would the carnivore grandson;and the dainty looking daughter who has a shocking appetite for her 9 stone/ 6 foot frame.
    me I’m the meat wimp here

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  4. This reminds me of a Paella dinner we were invited to a few years ago in a neighboring village. The Paella pan was HUGE!! Water was added with a fire hose, and I worried that this cooking technique could not possibly give a good result. Oh, how wrong I was. I still think about that Paella as the best I ever had!

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    1. I often felt clueless but never intimidated, because everybody is so friendly. In fact, if you’re new/visiting, they are even friendlier because they are so thrilled.

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