OK I promised to write about St Igne and here it is. I assure you that you have never lived until you have sat in a field full of drunken French people and stuffed your face with delicious country food and wine. This is what happens every year at St Igne which is a tiny village high in the hills above Verfeil. There is something magical about how it all happens as there appears to be nothing at all in St Igne apart form this field filled with long wooden tables. They also conjure up a dance floor, a band and food for about 300 people. It is especially wonderful for us to go as members of the extended Lafon family. Renne and Robert have the house opposite us in Verfeil and they have kind of adopted us so we get to indulge in a lot of hellos and cheek kissing that we would miss if we were just that mad English couple.
At first it is all very calm and mellow as families arrive and jockey for position on the long wooden benches. Renne of course has arrive early and staked our claim in a prime position.The barbecue fires are lit and the smell of woodsmoke starts to scent the air as the sun goes down. It is like a scene from Jean de Florette! After an hour or so of chit chat the real business begins and food is served. The menu is always the same and always delicious. We begin with salty crisps and ice cold kir made from blackcurrant liqueur and local white wine, this give the perfect balance of salty and tangy sweetness to pique your appetite for the starter of juicy sweet Quercy melon and salty smoky meaty local ham. As this arrives the wine begins to flow and it just keeps coming, rich ruby red in ill assorted and unmarked bottles filled from a huge barrel. By now the full complement of Lafons and friend has arrived and we have been hugged half to death. Everyone has their Laguiole pocket knives out ready to do battle with the food.
Now the highlight of the evening arrives, the aligot, a fabulous smooth puree of buttery potatoes and melted mountain cheese with a hint of garlic. The better the aligot the more it stretches because the stretchiness depends on the quality and quantity of cheese. Our aligot was very stretchy and they lifted it up high with a special paddle just to prove it. The aligot is served by a chain of willing volunteers and is accompanied by wonderful meaty grilled sausage and more wine. Of course there is also unlimited country bread and at this stage you start to think that you'll never eat anything again. By now the tidiness of the tables has also started to disintegrate somewhat, with crusts, the odd melon rind, sundry serviettes etc all over the place.
But...We have not finished yet, a wonderful aroma of barbecued meat heralds the arrival of grilled lamb raised out here on the hills and tasting of wood smoke and the wild grasses and herbs that formed its diet. It is mouth watering. Bones fly in all directions as the last morsels of meat are sought out. By now the tables are a scene of carnage and the arrival of ice cream cones and coffee add the the melee. The once tidy table tops have disintegrated into a total mess.
Now the real fun begins as the music starts up. One of the things that I love about St Igne is that they always play traditional French music first and everyone joins in with folk dances, and waltzes and surprisingly perhaps tangos and paso dobles, although we are only a short distance from the Spanish border. Grandads dance with grand daughters and the young learn the traditional dances from the old. Even John and I have been known to indulge in the odd waltz, sometimes very odd, depending on the amount of wine consumed! All around is laughter and fun and the sight and sound of people really letting their hair down. One man staggers drunkenly towards the bushes for a pee, only just managing to co-ordinate his legs to overcome the obstacle of the gate into the field. This causes much hilarity.
Eventually the traditional songs give way to disco music and people begin to drift away about 1am. It is a magical time and I am going to post some photos and video clips separately so you can share a little of the magic.
Bissous a tous