Sunday, October 11 was a gorgeous autumn day. Cool and sunny with lovely blue skies and not a cloud in sight. We could not have asked for a nicer day to celebrate Le Bugue’s first annual Fête du Terroir. Terroir is a word that can have several meanings but literally translated it means: earth or soil. However, there is no such thing as a literal translation of anything French and it is defined as the specificity of place, which in the wine industry has come to include, not only the soil in a region, but also the climate, the weather and anything else that can possibly differentiate one piece of land from another. In our town, it simply meant the festival of the produce around our town.
I had seen a sign strung between two tractors at the beginning of Le Bugue appear about a week previously. It was quite a novel idea to advertise something like that and it looked quite interesting. But what was I exactly to expect? Being the first ever such festival, no one knew what it would encompass except that the posters promised: local farmers selling their produce, food for sale, local wines free for tasting and buying, a tree and plant fair, traditional dancers, bands and wandering musicians, jobs from past times on display, farm animals and tractors on display and even a soup contest! Well with all that variety on offer, I could not afford to miss it. There was bound to be something worth seeing and doing and I just love farm animals.
The first thing we encountered on entering Le Bugue were the barrel rollers. All traffic was stopped as a group of about 12 young guys and girls demonstrated the ancient art of barrel rolling all the way across the bridge spanning the river Vézère. They were really good. Can you imagine moving a large wine barrel? That was the way they did it, by rolling them, not on their sides but upright at a slight angle. Quite a skill if you ask me. Next, was the exhibition of tractors. I must admit that we simply walked through that section and did not linger but there were lots of men oohing and aahing over some very large and fancy tractors and machinery and a display of very old antique tractors.
Next, along the banks of the Vézère, were the animals. There were several horses, sheep, cows of different breeds, calves, goats, pigs, ducks, geese, rabbits, chickens of all sorts and even the cutest little Shetland ponies for children to have pony rides.
From there we walked over to observe the judging of the soup contest. There must have been at least 15 to 20 entries, all sitting there in pots of various shapes and sizes waiting to be tasted by the panel of judges that were taking their job very seriously indeed. The crowd surrounding these tables was very large and quite animated as each soup was tasted and commented on. I could see that this was going to take quite a while, several hours maybe, so we moved onto the old jobs section.
This was a fascinating and interesting display of all jobs that used to be done in days gone by. There was an upholsterer redoing a chair by hand, a knife maker, a carpenter, a black smith, a distiller, a wooden toy maker and my favorite, a display of how to press apples to make juice using a wooden press and straw. The straw served as a natural filter to keep the pips and pulp from the clear juice. Free samples were handed out and were rather delicious.
On the other side of the street a group of traditional dancers were performing to accordion music. They ranged in age from 6 to 80! By now, the sun was beating down and it was the perfect day for the festival. The main road had been closed to traffic and all along it, little stalls had been set up selling fruit, vegetables, squash and gourds of every size, shape and color. Free wine tastings of local Bergerac and Pecharmant wines. Cheese sellers, saucisson sellers, nougat sellers to hand-made straw hats and leather bags.
A strolling band provided the music for the atmosphere although it was not really needed as there was already such a festive feeling in the air.
We walked all the way to the end to see the trees and plants on sale, a huge selection, although not being a natural gardener I must admit that I was a little confused as to why you would buy and plant now as most plants clearly stated that they had to be planted in spring after the last frost. Maybe, you buy them now and keep them in a green house until then as they might be cheaper now? But, knowing me, they would die before Spring rolled around. So, I decided against purchasing any plants this time. I did identify a few varieties that I might like in about 6 months time though. Walking back along the road, the smell of food filled the air and my stomach was beginning to grumble. It was almost 1PM after all. So many choices and all looked so tasty. Smells of french fries, roast potatoes, sausages, (merguez, chipolata, andouille), duck confit, roast chicken, pork on the spit, mingled with warm bread straight out the oven. What to eat? We decided on an andouille sausage with caramelized onions, french fries and warm baguette on the side. Andouille is a coarse sausage using pork, often pork chitterlings and tripe, garlic, pepper, onions, wine and spices. It is served cut in two and grilled. All washed down with a glass of house red wine, absolutely delicious.
Well fed, we slowly wandered back to the car, taking in a last look at all the stalls. I could not resist buying two massive butternut for 6 Euro. Just think of all the recipes I can make with these: soup, salads, mash, pasta, roast – endless choices. We had a great outing and I can safely say that after speaking to various people, the first Fête du Terroir was a huge success and we hope it becomes a yearly event.