Loose in Toulouse

Loose in Toulouse

I left my hometown of Luchon this morning to travel back to Paris. I had a 5 hours lay over in Toulouse in order to catch the cheap €29.29 iDTGV.  I locked my belongings at the “consigne” and took off.

I lived in Toulouse in two occasions: In the mid 70’s while being a student at Lycée Raymond Naves and in 1983-84 while trying to be an actress. These times were certainly not the rosiest of my life. As a student I lived at the home of an extremely rigid & dark family where I felt inadequate & stupid most of the time. As a pretending actress the situation was no better, despite landing a small role at the famous Grenier de Toulouse. I had troubles hiding my accent, I was  bold —in many ways as I shaved my head at that time— untrained, uneducated and I was also mostly focused on my son Joseph then a toddler.  I had separated from his father when he was less than two years old and my pride was to take care of him myself. I was 24 years old had already been a clerk at a pharmacy, a chef/restaurant owner, a door to door vacuum cleaner salesperson, but wanted my dream was to be an actress as I had done a lot of acting in high school. Well it didn’t work the way I had envisioned though my first, and only, professional role at the Grenier was to be a waitress in the Arnold Wesker play The Kitchen! That might explain why I wasn’t fit for it…I thought I knew how to be a perfect waitress and could carry it on stage, but I totally missed the point it was not about being “real” but about to be theater real and I was certainly not prepared for that.

Anyhow I have returned to Toulouse many times since then, & performed several of my shows there: Deplacements with Pierre Joris, Ninon at the Cave Poésie & The Bi-Continental Chowder/ La Garbure Transcontinentale at the Festival Occitania. Toulouse is also the inevitable transit hub to Luchon —about 1h 1/2 south, straight toward the high pics.

Today was the first time in years I was there alone. I had no friends nor family scheduled to see & a very strong desire to let the city carry me. The day was beautiful, I walked along the Canal du Midi for a while and then directed myself towards downtown thinking that I might enjoy getting some lunch on a terrasse around place Wilson. When I crossed the boulevard I noticed the sign for Marché Victor Hugo and followed it. I love markets and this one is very special. Unfortunately as it was around 1h30 PM it was closing time. I still got a glance at the beautiful meat displays, so fresh, so perfect. I also remembered that there was great restaurants on the mezzanine above the market and last I stopped there in 2007 I bumped into a childhood friend, Christian Lazorthes,then known as Kiki, he worked at Le Louchebem.

Christian LazorthesSure enough he was still there, I spotted him out right away, set myself at the bar, he also recognized me immediately & that is alway reassuring! I asked him for a spot and he sat me in his section of the communal table. He brought me a glass of Tariquet for apperitif and advised me to eat a piece of onglet roti —hanger steak— with raw shallots & round new potatoes, I made sure I wasn’t getting frozen fries — as in the USA, most of the french restaurant now serve frozen fries, please help me put pressure on the abolition of frozen fries!—. While I was waiting for my plate a man sat across the table from me. We exchanged a few banalities, that ended up not being so banale because something made me understand that he spoke occitan. I asked him about it and he said yes of course. After that almost our entire conversation was conducted in his beautiful perfect occitan and in my broken pyrenean gascon. While eating the most delicious hanger steak with Mustard of Meaux, I found out that we had many common acquaintances. Once of them the occitan scholar/philosopher Alem Surre-Garcia, I have been very inspired by his work and was glad to find out that he had two new books out: ARCHIPELS ET DIASPORA : ESSAI D’ÉMANCIPATION La théocratie républicaine & LA THÉOCRATIE RÉPUBLICAINE Les avatars du Sacré. I went to buy them at Ombres Blanches (Best bookstore in Toulouse and maybe in France) as soon as lunch was over.

My new acquaintance, Jacme Delmas, turned out to be a radical occitan writer author of the blog: http://democraciaoccitania.blogspot.com/ and contributing editor at El Triangle an independentist Catalan newspaper. A very passionate man that has put a lot of thinking and practice of being an occitan. I had a great time, it was energizing to be able to feel the depth of my culture and feeling totally inside of it even though I Iive so far away from it. Once again my favorite mantra “Things fall where they lie” & my identity as a Gasco-Rican were confirmed! Mercés Jacme per la conversacion, eth partatge de la passion del país e espèri que me mande al puslèu l’explicacion dera prononciacion de Jacme.  Adishatz!


Soupe, Chorba, Çorba, Suppa, Soup, Sopa…..

Soupe, Chorba, Çorba, Suppa, Soup, Sopa…..

Pierre Joris' Chorba

Soups are made everywhere in the world with all kinds of ingredients. Many appealing adjectives can describe them: healthy, earthy, cheap, restorative, easy to make, filling, convenient, the list is infinite. First lets clarify some terminology:
At the beginning the “soupe” was the bread dunked into the broth. This tradition remains ­– think for example of how in this country crackers or bread are inseparable from a bowl of soup.

If you are a beginner cook, soups are great to experiment with as it is rather difficult to ruin a soup.
Though all soups aren’t born equal and here are a few examples from the fanciest to simplest:
Consommé: a clarified meat or fish broth.
Bisque: puréed shellfish with cream soup.
Velouté or Crème: vegetable or meat based thickened with eggs yolks, butter and cream
Potage: falls somewhere in between velouté & soup texture and thickness.
Soup: refers to a thick, earthy chunky melange; think of French Onion soup, Bouillabaisse (fish stew soup), and last but not least the Garbure! also the title of my performance The Garbure Transcontinentale/The Bi-Continental Chowder where I cook this original recipe on stage, mirror the ingredients with songs and then share the soup with the audience. I am including the 10-minute video at the end of this post.

Today I will pass on a North African soup or chorba recipe that my partner Pierre Joris learned while living in Constantine, Algeria. This is one of our favorite winter dinners and we always eat it as a “plat unique”, or only course, and eat several plates. Follow it with a salad of fresh oranges with cinnamon, mint and chopped almonds for dessert.La Chorba de Pierre
Ingredients :

for 8 people

2 lbs of Lamb – shoulder cut into small pies & save bones
1 big Onion, finely chopped
1 heaped spoon of sweet Paprika

1 big bunch of Fresh Cilantro/coriander; 1/2 cup finely chopped. The rest of the bunch divided in half. The first half will be tied and dropped in the pot once all the other ingredients and the water will be in. Second half chopped and served as garnish at the table
2 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
2 quarts of Water
1 diced fresh Tomato in summer; or 1/2 cup of canned organic diced tomato in winter
1 Cup of washed Freekeh (green wheat available at middle eastern markets and some health food stores, Bulgur can be substituted, but will not have as rich and complex a taste)
: 1 tube or can (a North African hot red sauce or paste made from chili peppers, garlic, coriander and caraway or cumin. It may also contain tomatoes.You can get Harrissa du Cap Bon by clicking on the link or you can make your own.)
Lemon (2): quartered to serve at the table as garnish


Generously coat a large sauce pan with olive oil –the Le Creuset 7 1/4-Quart Round French Oven is the one we do prefer, a once in a life time investment!– when oil is warm, sauté the onions until translucent. Add the meat and bones, sauté thoroughly. While the meat is browning, add the Paprika, Salt, fresh ground Pepper and the 1/4 cup of Fresh Cilantro, mix well and keep sautéing for a few minutes. When nicely browned add the water and the tied bunch of Cilantro, bring it to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hour.
At that point remove the Cilantro bunch and the bones (if you wish). Add the cup of Freekeh and the chopped tomato. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer for about 1/2 hour or until Freekeh is cooked.
Bring garnishes (Lemon, Harrissa, Chopped Fresh Coriander/Cilantro) & Chorba at the table. Each person fills a plate, adds their desired amount of Harrissa (I use 1/2 a teaspoon but be careful you can always add some but it is difficult to take it out!)

Enjoy: it will warm the cockles of your heart!

La Garbure Trancontinentale-The Bi-Continental Chowder
a performance written, cooked, filmed and sung by Nicole Peyrafitte.
Video Elizabeth Germa