A Culinary Journey in Gascony:
Recipes and Stories from My French Canal Boat
by Kate Hill
Review By Bill Marsano.
A Life to Die For in the Long Village of Gascony
La Capitaine Hill, or Cap'n Kate, as I think of her, is a sailor, cook and blessed soul who lives a life to die for. She spends much of her year in Gascony, in the southwest of France, and she lives in a place she calls the Long Village.
By that she means the Canal Lateral a la Garonne, which winds through some of the prettiest parts of France as it makes its way to (or from) the river Garonne, which in turn meets the Atlantic just beyond Bordeaux. She manages to do this because about 17 years ago she had the good sense to buy the Julia Hoyt, a <peniche> or canal boat to live, cook and teach aboard.
This delightful and envy-prompting book is the fruit of her years in the Long Village, collecting recipes, meeting people, making friends, exploring odd corners and traditions and folkways. Buying tomatoes from the lockkeeper's wife; getting caught--by a 12-year-old boy!--in the ghastly act of serving cheese <before> the meal; learning from an elderly <grand-mere> that a freshly killed rabbit must 'rest' for a day before it's cooked; finding a pear-grower turned part-poet/distiller; discovering the potion 'served on wedding nights to fortify the newlyweds'; and more and more and more.
Of course there are recipes; recipes by the penich-load. Cap'n Kate's are the dishes of Gascony, of course, and Gascony is that romantic landscape of Cyrano de Bergerac and d'Artagnan. If she can cook any and all of them in the tiny galley of the Julia Hoyt, then we ought to be able to cook them too.
A good strategy would be to buy two copies of this book--one for the kitchen and the other for the night table, to prompt sweeet dreams. Another good bet is to book a cooking vacation cruise, to plod placidly through the Long Village with the good Captain at the helm or the stove, as circumstances require.