In the county of Luchon (where I was born and raised) we are really serious about Pétéram. Pétéram is an ancient localdish made froma combination of tripe (intestine & pluck), lamb & veal feet, ham, carrots & onions. During my last visit home I had to have my fix of Pétéram; so one Sunday, part of the family took off to the village of Oô, where the restaurant “Les Spigeoles” serves one of the best Pétéram. Jean-Pierre Oustalet, a friend & the chef-0wner of the establishment, is a very creative man always up to something fun. Recently he printed a series of t-shirts with the motto he coined himself: “In Peteram We Trust!”.
This summer a Flemish TV from Belgium came to film Jean-Pierre’s Pétéram for one of their shows. Though the video is in Flemish & French I urge you to watch it: Touristique: de pétéram.
Tripe dishes are cooked around the world (list here), and as we know these less desired cuts were left for the poor. It was the same for Pétéram, I don’t think it appeared on restaurant menus in Luchon until the 20th century and my family restaurant was certainly one of the first to offer it. Though I don’t know the exact etymology of the word, one can read its the humble origins through the Gascon language : petar— French translation: “crever” or in English:”to die” or “to be famished” and hame— in French “faim” or in English “hungry”. ThusPétéram can be interpreted as “a dish for the famished” or as a dish that will kill hunger! Then again this may be an invented etymology (much work remains to be done on the Gascon language, and especially certain of its regional versions, such as that spoken in the Luchonais.) On the other hand, to quote my husband, the poet Pierre Joris, “are any etymologies really ‘false’?”
I used to make Pétéram when I was working at the family restaurant (other posts related to the family hotel here) and though we received “clean” tripe from the butcher, the smell was still strong and the tripe would require extensive blanching in order to get rid of the offensive smell. I got used to it and it didn’t bother me, except this one time. In the late fall of 1981, I had to cut a big pile of intestines and honeycomb for my Pétéram and that time, for some reason I was to discover a few days later, I couldn’t bear the smell. Two days later I found out I was pregnant with my son Joseph. Throughout my pregnancy I had to stay away from tripes.
Jean Pierre Oustalet’s Pétéram is as good as it gets. He achieves the difficult task of making a tripe dish light. The texture of the tripe still firm but tender. The sauce, in which the tripe have cooked for over twelve hours, release the rich and comforting aromas of all the ingredients. The creamy potatoes that have been added late in the cooking provide the perfect starching effect. Some places serve it as a first course, though we had it as a main course. We had soup to start with, then a plate of artisan salamis & cured ham, followed by the Pétéram as the main course. Then we had a slice of delicious mountain cheese, a slice of apple pie and voilà! we sure were full and happy! Below are a few pictures of the fun outing where you can see my parents : Jean & Renée Peyrafitte ( 88 and 81 years old!) in the gorgeous village of Oô. This village is also very dear to me because I premiered my performance The Bi-Continental Chowder /La Garbure Transcontinentale there in 2005. One of the reason is that one of the main Romanesque female figures featured in the show is from the village; you can hear the song related to it here.
The recipe is a translation of the family recipe transmitted by my grandfather Joseph Peyrafitte & typed by my mother Renée Peyrafitte:
for 5/6 people:
1 lamb stomach & 6 feet 1 kg veal honeycomb & 2 feet
3 carrots whole 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 ham bone
1 bouquet garnis of thym, laurel & parsley 1 cup of ham prosciutto like— diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 quart chicken stock
1 kg potatoes
Hachis (50 gr garlic & 50 gr fatback grounded together)
1/3 cup Armagnac
Blanch and scrape the tripes thoroughly. Cut the stomach & honeycomb in trips of about 1 x 0.5 inches. Place is all in a stew-pot with a ham bone.
Add 3 whole carrots, the bouquet garnis, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, 1 cup of ham, 2 onions whole, salt, pepper & a touch of nutmeg. Add wine wine & chicken stock so tripes are immersed and “swimming”.
Bring it to a boil, cover the pot and let cook for 10 hours, one hour before serving add potatoes peeled and quartered.
When ready to serve add hachis and the Armagnac.
On Saturday November 13th, 2010 the soccer stadium in my hometown of Luchon (French Pyrenees) was named the Stade Jean Peyrafitte. Jean Peyrafitte is my father and today he is a dashing 88 years old. His political career lasted for a span of 24 years. Among many mandates the most significant are: mayor of the town of Luchon (1974-1995); Conseiller Général —county executive— (1977-1992) & Senator (1980-1998).
He was of course touched to be honored during his lifetime but the real thrill was to have the soccer field where he played as a young man named after him. Dad started his soccer career while he was in boarding school in Toulouse; during that time he finished second at the regional best young player contest and therefore was qualified to participate in the final in Paris. Unfortunately his mother, who was a control freak, didn’t allow him to go; her excuse was: “You are too young to go to Paris”, at that time parental authority was not challenged but I still can feel today how sad he was .
When he was done with school he came back to his hometown and integrated the lead soccer team (équipe première) despite his young age. In 1942 the team won the division championship and managed to play up to the 32th final of the Coupe de France — the French National Soccer Cup. After an intense and dramatic game they lost against Toulouse, a pro team. It was only in the last part of the second half that the then international player Mario Zatelli scored twice.
After being requisitioned for STO — that was the Compulsory Work Service during the German occupation of France — and spending a couple of dreadful years in German factories, my father got drafted in 1946 to serve in the army. His battalion was stationed in the town of Menton. There he got to join the town soccer team where he once again excelled. He got noticed by the Monaco managers. At that time the Monaco soccer team, very close to Menton, was trying to reach professional status. On Mondays during the soccer season they organized friendly games against professional teams in order to prepare for promotion. They needed better players and they invited my dad to play. At the end of the year they reached promotion to pro level and they offered dad to join the team for good. He seriously considered; he was done with the army, loved the area but once again his mother thwarted his dreams and pressured him to come home. Many times I heard the story of my grand father showing up in Menton to convince him to come back home. Dad was an only child, and they were able to pressure him by claiming they needed help with the family business; once again he obeyed and returned.
Other offers to play in professional clubs came, but he turned them all down, returned home for good and threw himself into many successful ventures. Before getting into politics, he coached the soccer team, created a night club —where I got to listen to great jazz!—, wrote for local newspapers, promoted Southern French Tourism and food, created an independent hotel chain with friends…well the list would be too long to name them all.
Anyhow, back to the naming of the stadium: Dad being concerned that his voice would not be strong enough since he is struggling with light bouts of Parkinsons that have an effect on his throat, and as he is also concerned with getting over-emotional, he asked me to read his speech. I also typed it for him and that was interesting. When I arrived at his house on Tuesday the dining room was cluttered with boxes, old files, envelopes filled with photos, articles and various dossiers. My mom said: “And that is only a small portion of what we have”! We sat down and started sorting and organizing. We kept all the soccer related documents at hand so dad could refresh his memory to write his speech. We only started typing the speech on Thursday, because we got caught up in looking and filing photos of his night club in the 50’s. I will have to do a separate post on that because there is way too much to say.
So on Thursday we sat side by side and he started dictating me what he wanted to say. I had to listen to many of my dads speeches over the years so I know his style pretty well. I helped trying to keep it concise and focused as he had about 5 minutes to respond to the mayor’s speech. It went pretty well despite how opinionated we both can be. One of the keys was to keep it only between the two of us. He wanted my mother around, for details and dates, but their constant fighting mode of communication would have been too much for me, so I agreed to go consult with mom every time we needed details. He worked on the speech everyday until Saturday. He is a perfectionist and completion comes when there is no more time for revision! Anyhow, everything turned out great. It was a very sweet moment, both my brothers where there too and in his speech my dad mentioned that his three children had played on that field. Pierre played goalie, he actually had a bit of a carrier in Paris, Jean-Louis played forward and I was part of the first woman’s team of the town! Dad also mention that his father Joseph Peyrafitte had been at the origin of the stadium. He had been a team manager when my dad played and in the thirties it was he who actually had facilitated the transfer of the stadium to this location and part of the land had been his at some point.
It is humbling and powerful to walk through the entry arch of the Gargas Cave. For thousands upon thousands of years humans have entered the cave through this very opening. The Cave of Gargas is situated in the central Pyrenees, 40 minutes away from my hometown. Though mostly famous for its panels of stenciled handsdating from the Gravettian period (between 28,000 and 22,000 years ago) Yoan Rumeau, curator of the cave, explains that the cave has seen traffic for way longer than that, and even though the hands are the more dramatic artifacts, the engravings —probably from the Magdalenian period— are extremely complex and deserve serious attention and studies. Tribes of nomad people moved around the “Perigord triangle” and came to visit this cave periodically. This theory is supported by the similarity of tools found in the archeological digs.
Personally, I was mostly interested in looking at feminine representations and Yoan Rumeau was extremely kind to tailor the visit according to my interests. All of these representations are incredible, but the most breathtaking for me was a 5 inch natural vertical opening in the rock that has been reddened with iron oxyde pigment. It looks exactly like a vulva: from the texture, to the wetness, to the bulging, to the color, it was intensely “real.” I will expand on this visit at another time but the energy it gave off, plus the visual and scholarly information gathered fed my research & concerns about the Vulvic Space/Knowledge. This project is inspired by the work of Carolee Schneemann and will include a manisfesto, paintings, texts & performance. Hopefully there will be more on this later. I want to thank Yoan Rumeau for his explanations and the way he so generously gave of his time.
High from the visit I stopped at my brother Pierre’s — he and his partner Christine live quite close to the cave. In fact, Christine ran the cave’s restaurant for years, though she is now retired and the restaurant is defunct. The photo with the Gargas painted sign is taken from their home. As it was 3:30PM when I arrived, Christine and Pierre had lunched already. I was really hungry and Pierre offered to cook me a palombe (ringdove or wild pigeon) in his fireplace. The birds had been shot on Sunday and brought as a present by his friend Henry Christophe, hunter and journalist. Pierre trussed the bird with a nice slice of lard, brushed it with some oil and piment d’Espelette —chili from the basque country—, salted it and then hung it in front of a roaring fire.
While we had some red wine we occasionally tapped the bird to make sure all sides cooked evenly. 25/30 minutes later we judged it done, Pierre cut it in a half and said “all yours!” Christine took the pan that had collected the drippings, reduced the juices on the stove for a few minutes and poured it over my bird.
The cooking was simply perfect, moist, gamy but not too strong. I took my time, savored each bite and left the bones clean. I also had to be careful not to break my teeth on the tiny bullet. What a delight!
For dessert I had Christine’s scrumptious home made quince jelly with fresh walnuts and then tea and a piece of local tourte —a kind of fragrant pound cake. I left the village of Aventignan (where the caves are) fully satiated with images, smells and tastes that made me feel like I had traveled through time. I was an ancient woman driving through the narrow valley where the white peaks defied the Prussian blue sky.
Since Pierre‘s commute to Albany is a little brutal this semester, I try to alleviate it by packing him lunch. I always loved packing food to take away, and when I worked in Manhattan I packed my lunch everyday.
I also have very vivid memories from the time when I was a child and we were packing picnics for the hotel residents going on day trips. The family hotel being a 4-star establishment, you can imagine how elaborate that was. Prepackaged item didn’t exist, so for salt, pepper, sugar, mustard & cornichons, we would make cute little pockets out of parchment paper. The beautiful cuts of salami, jambon de pays (prosciutto), jambon blanc (cooked ham), roast beef, chicken, cheeses — yeah! lots of proteins— were carefully wrapped in parchment paper attached with butcher string. Seasonal fruits were added on top, a bottle of wine, bottle of mineral water and a fresh baguette stuck to the side of the basket.
I also remember my grandfather Joseph packing my picnic for the end of the year elementary school field trip. I requested sandwiches & Coca-Cola. Bon-Papa Joseph went along with the sandwiches but absolutely vetoed the Coca-Cola telling me that that stuff was so efficient in cleaning metal surfaces that he didn’t want my stomach to be subjected to the same treatment. Instead, he filled an empty bottle with some wine, water and sugar. I was around 9 or 10 years old and I remember like if it was yesterday that after eating lunch, my friend Françoise Gerdessus and I took a pedal boat ride and I felt pretty funny and happy… I was drunk! I lost my wallet that day and I never forgot that Françoise shared her pocket money with me. Anyhow, Pierre’s lunch made me travel back to childhood and my unconscious might be thinking of that crew of school friends that are going to gather soon for a school reunion that I will not make this year!
Voilà! Pierre’s lunch is a little more balanced:
Cold oven roasted chicken Cuke salad (with no rice)
Apple sauce (Pierre’s ultimate comfort food)
2 slices of Amy’s bread
All packed in this cute lunch box my daughter in law got for us in Korea, where packing lunch is a serious affair… but no room for the bottle of wine!