Stade Jean Peyrafitte


Luchon’s Mayor Louis Ferré & Jean Peyrafitte

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 .

Team Bagnères Luchon Sport 1942

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.

Team Bagnères Luchon Sport 1942

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.

Team BLS 2010 with Jean Peyrafitte Family & Louis Ferré & Serge Santiveri


Below are many pictures of the moving ceremony with all of us. The ceremony was followed by a soccer game where the local team (now playing in a lower division) won 3-0. It looks like they felt inspired by the brillant history — may they begin their rise to a great future. To conclude as my dad did: Vive le Bagnères-Luchon Sport (the name of the team!) —Photo
© Domy-Luchon

My Montanha & My Soup

I arrived Monday afternoon in Bourg d’Oueil after a long but pleasant trip. My Pyrenean home is closer to Spain than to Paris and I am not kidding: it takes 15 minutes by car to reach the Spanish border and about 8 hours to reach Paris!  My travels began Sunday at 1:30 p.m. from our Brooklyn home and I finally reached Bourg d’Oueil on Monday at 3:30 p.m. local time or 9 a.m. Brooklyn time. After taking two planes, two buses, and two car rides I reached our little house in the village at the far end of the Valley. As my intention was to cook a soup on a live fire, the priority was to light the fire.

I had planned to get some veggies in town before my last climb up to the mountains. I arrived too late to get to the market, so my only option was the local supermarket. The offerings where pretty sad and I couldn’t come to terms with buying any of these mass produced veggies. I placed a call to my good friends Joseph & Paulette asking them if they had anything left in their Bourg d’Oueil garden. They had already winterized the garden but had plenty of veggies in their Luchon garden. Not to worry, said Paulette, Joseph will bring me leeks, celery, potatoes, chards, carrots & onions later on. Great! I can always count on them. I did hit the cheese counter and was pleased to be able to get a couple of local cheeses.


The most delightful part of the trip is the 17 kms climb from Luchon to Bourg d’Oueil. Despite the weather forecast there was neither rain nor snow but a slightly overcast sky that let me have a partial view of my mountains. Driving through the villages triggers images: In Benqué Dessus et Benqué Dessous,  it is Jules’ face, the Fournier’s house, and the cromlecs above them. Before Saint Paul d’Oueil,  the sign for Saccourvielle brings up my friend Emingo, who makes the best goat cheese I ever had, and Mme Labry, a writer who was my French teacher in high school. In Mayrègne,  I look at the old “kiosque” where I use to go eat crêpes in the summer as a child; I also think of the recently deceased mayor who was key on having me perform the Bi-Contimental Chowder/ La Garbure Continentale in the Valley.  Then comes Caubous, Cirès, and at this point I can’t think of anything else than trying to get a glimpse of the Peirahitta (my totem!)  that sits at the pass of Pierefite. And finally I reach Bourg d’Oueil the very last village at the end of the valley. I park the car and start schlepping my stuff to the house. It is almost impossible to reach the house by car, the street is so narrow,  evidence if need be that this place was not build for car traffic!



After a quick tour of the house, I lit the fire — we are at 1400m or 4600 feet  here, so the air is nippy on this November afternoon. Once the fire was going strong I started opening my stuff, got my art supplies out, opened a bottle of wine, got the cheese out and waited for Joseph et Paulette who brought the veggies at around 5:30 p.m. — they had added a jar of duck fat and one of honey, all home produced. While the soup was cooking I worked at a drawing that includes some attempts at writing in Gascon.
And then, accompanied by the sound of the stream running under the house, the crackle of the fire and the occasional ringing of the church bell, I savored my soup. The flavors are indescribable. They call on all my senses and the experience is totally gastoorgasmic!

So here is my soup:
2 generous spoons of duck fat
1 onion
2 small leeks
3 carrots
1 branch of celery
3 leafs of chard
Salt & fresh ground pepper
Grated brebis cheese

Sauté all the vegetables in order in the duck fat then add water and let cook until done. The soup is even better the next day, and of course feel free to add other veggies like beans, turnips, cabbage….

Now can you smell? Just try:

Transit & Cranes

DSCN3628


After a long trip we arrived in my hometown, Luchon, in the Central Pyrenées.  There is very little time to process pictures and notes gathered daily. Since we got here, it has been an uninterrupted stream of aperitifs, meals, digestifs with family and friends.
For now I will report on our transit day in Paris on 14 July, Bastille Day. We landed from our transcontinental flight midday and directly headed to Gare d’Austerlitz to drop off our luggage until our night train to Luchon. It sounded convenient and pleasant to have lunch at the nearby Jardin des Plantes and then spend time in the gardens and menageries. As Bastille Day is also Pierre’s birthday, we were really looking forward to a nice meal on the outside terrace of the newly renovated restaurant “ La Baleine.” The sun, the bread & very decent house wine kept us content, though the meal was mediocre, overpriced and the service lousy.
The garden was originally planted in 1626 as a medicinal herb garden. Back then it was known as the Jardin du Roi
(Louis XIII). In 1640 it opened to the public. In 1792 the Royal Menagerie was moved to the gardens from Versailles. Among a wide variety of animals we had a great time watching the super entertaining orangutans, the 250 lb 120 years old Aldabra Giant tortoise (Geochelone gigantea) and I was particularly delighted spending time with the White Nape Cranes. Last fall I wrote a piece called crane/grue that is on my cd Whisk! Don’t Churn! Below you will find the recording as the sound track of the video I shot Monday.

So voilà for now! My son Miles and I are off tomorrow for a short trip to Aix-en-Provence for a mother and son adventure, while Pierre Joris will be in Lodève at the Poetry Festival “Les Voix de la Mediterranée.” We will join him towards the end of the week for a shared performance, and then back to the Pyrenées — and for now, as we say here, Adishatz!



Le Paté de Ken

We are trying to settle a minimum into our new place before taking off for 6 weeks in France/Luxembourg. We will mostly be in the Southwest though the first week in the Southeast, then a final week in Luxembourg. If you are traveling around these areas come and see us!
Pierre will be at the fabulous Lodève poetry festival : Les Voix de la Mediterranée (July 18-27). He will perform almost every day and we will meet up with him around July 24th. Miles Joris-Peyrafitte and I will debut our duo tour in the streets of Aix, Montpellier, Lodève and we will have 2 concerts in Peyragudes (Thursdays 6 & 13 of August). Peyragudes is a resort next to Luchon.
I do hope to be able to post photos and recipes as often as possible. Meanwhile I have to run to open more boxes in order to repack! I want to leave you on a less frantic note. Below, a beautiful recipe  from Ken Albala. Ken is a food historian, a great investigative cook, and an excellent  writer.  Ken’s books should be on your summer reading list. I am savoring his book on  beans myself and always read his blog, Ken Albala’s. Today I am cross posting my favorite kind of paté. Like Ken, I like chunky patés, and am not a fan of the smoothie spreading kind. This recipe is terrific and I can’t wait to be back in the fall to make it; here is the direct link: http://kenalbala.blogspot.com/2009/07/pate-de-campagne.html.

And OUI! this is a what I call a TRUE Paté de Campagne!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Pate de Campagne?

I have to admit, I was not sure what this would be when I started. And I’m still not sure. A souse, coppa di testa, sulze. Not really, those are all set in gelatin. Nor really a pate, because it isn’t smooth and spreadable. Not that a pate de campagne should be. So there it is. And have to admit, this solid toothsome version is much more interesting than the cream-laden versions one normally sees, covered in bacon. If you want bacon, eat bacon. This one is actually cured pork. Very simply seasoned.
SO, I offer you a recipe! In standard format. Ah me. But technique IS antiquated.
2.5 lbs of boneless pork shoulder, or 4 fatty country ribs.
2 tbs salt
1 tsp coarsely ground pepper
1 tsp thyme or other herb you like, esp. juniper
1 good pinch instacure #1 (pink curing salt)
3 ice cubes
Coarsely chop the pork and pork fat into small nubbins. Add the seasonings. Mix and put in the fridge for 5 days to cure. Then put the mixture into a large mortar and pound the hell out if it for about 15 minutes. Throw in the ice cubes as you go. This is a GREAT upper body workout. I suspect if you kept going with this you would have a smooth bologna. The mixture is very much a sausage mix, with darker, lighter and white fat in a suspension but still separate, which would not work in a grinder or processor. If you have a large beef bung I would stuff it in there. I used a large round porcelain ramekin. Cover it with plastic wrap, and place in a steamer. Steam gently for 40 minutes. Cool and refrigerate at least 24 hours. Slice and serve with mustard, good rye (which I baked yesterday) and cornichons – which alas I had not. You can also slice this very thinly and make sandwiches. The next time I do this I am going to pour in a glug of cognac, or maybe vinegar. Gin would be lovely too.