To begin with - yes you are right - you are looking at a restaurant terrace - with a chicken close at hand. I've been told that the chickens don't actually light on the terrace, because.. well there is no reason except 'because - they don't'. I chose this image as emblematic of the charm and the surprise, along with the earthiness and reality, embodied in Gascony, the old name for SW France.
I live in the Gers, the largest region in Gascony, a region of small towns, the biggest of which has under 22,000 inhabitants, and the next only 8,000. But although this is where Dumas placed his Three Musketeers, aside from the gourmands of France who appreciate its secrets, it's not a well known area. It didn't, at least as of last year, even appear in Rick Steve's guide to France, so I'd say it doesn't yet qualify as touristic; although, recent articles and books have put it on the radar of people looking for undiscovered France.
I love the Gers and the Gascon way of life. Gascony is rural, with the highest percentage of cultivated farm land and the highest percentage of organic crops in France and it's quintessentially real, down to earth, and unpretentious. It's citizens are cheerful, generous, and relaxed and life is good for them.
Come here to share in that - come to have fun, relax, and enjoy the simple pleasures of rural life, eat well, cook well, share with friends, and be convivial, and live in a centuries old town.
I've been teaching cooking classes for a very long time and I've taken my share as well. Over the decades, I've evolved away from teaching cooking techniques with the aim of technical mastery. My focus is now on helping you - with whatever skills you possess and whatever ingredients you're cooking - make delicious food and food associated with pleasureful memories that builds and feeds memories. This may seem like an odd concept, but food and smell are connected to the most ancient part of our brains - the part associated with sharing - with surviving. And smell is the sense that is most attached to our memories. So, food conjures up, all by itself, history, geography, society, our roots, memories of our past, our families, our friends, places we have been, and events we've experienced. Food speaks both of desperate survival and great abundance. When we put a meal together, we can express so much.. and at the same time, create new memories, evoke old stories, and create an ambiance. It's fun and we get the chance to do it everyday.
Making delicious food can definitely include technique, discerning which ingredients are best, the mastery of chemistry, the construction of food, and the ability to find balance. But, it doesn't need to be complicated. We all cook for different reasons - and we all enjoy different aspects of cooking. It's a matter of using whatever talent and interests you already possess, thinking about your intentions, applying your knowledge, and on a more prosaic note, learning how to recognize and correct minor disasters.
When you come here, we'll work on that so that when you return home, you will do so not only with happy memories of Gascony and Gascon food, but also a new approach to making your food truly delicious. Really good food is made all over the world - sometimes by people who are incredibly talented and sometimes by people who simply like to eat well; both will find a way to make that happen.
What's This? I think it goes well with the chicken photo. It's a sculpture for my town's summer art theme which I believe is "The Pilgrim' - that is pilgrims walking the Composte de Santiago trail that runs through Lecotoure. You will find them everywhere, hiding in the foliage or occupying center strips. Last year's theme was more complicated - something like "Colonialization' - You can't imagine how this was conveyed but when you visit,
I'll tell you.