I do not know if any of you have read le grand Maulnes by the French writer, Alain Fournier . The novel takes place in Sologne, it is a sad love story that I read when I was 13 years old, I was sick at the time with a cold and could not attend school. La Sologne has always had a special part in my heart. It is about seventy five miles from Paris and you can enter the province of La Sologne by crossing the Loire at Orleans. A further forty-five miles or so along smaller roads takes you to Romorantin, Sologne’s capital boasting a modest 19,000 inhabitants. Sologne lies from east to west between the Loire and the Cher stretching about 55 miles.
The cooking of Sologne is dominated by game, for shooting and hunting parties are still extremely vital to the economy of the area. The heyday of the greatest”shoots” took place between the two wars. The aristocrats would gather at a hunting lodge for a day of the felling game. Released by a gamekeeper, a fattened pheasant or deer would be brought down by a hunter’s bullet. Nowdays such shooting parties are organized by very successful businessmen from Paris. In Sologne where farmers and gamekeepers meet for lunch and traditional dishes such as rabbit pot-au-feu or civet de lievre ( more like jugged hare). Pheasant is usually served as in a ballotine ( boned, stuffed, and rolled up like a bundle) served hot – or with juniper berries, raosted on a bed of cabbage or served with a galette of potatoes. Partridges are served from the end of summer to mid-autumn, very often wrapped in vine leaves and cooked in verjus ( sour grape juice). There are also large numbers of roe deer, wild boar, and a variety of of wild fowl on the lakes and mires in this marshy land. The cooking of Sologne is not nouvelle Cuisine but more a very creative use of ingredients at hand.
Olivet is in the north of Sologne and is celebrated for its pears and they are quite a few varieties with names as evocative like Beurre Hardi, with its blushing skin and pinkish flesh and comice, conference, canada and william. The eau-de-vie de poire william, sold with a whole pear very mysteriously grown to full size inside the bottle, has a great fragrance and puts Swiss Williamine to shame.
The Sologne has 4,000 lakes and they are caused by the damp climate but also the accumulation of the clay soil of waters from le Massif central, to the central. With the brooding melancholy of the lanscape, particularly in Autumn, that led to the belief of the supernatural among the inhabitants of Sologne. Local spirits , which may have had their origin in the pre-christian days, became transformed into local saints and were closely associated with sacred springs and fountains. Today the lakes are are the haunts only for fishermen and the fishing season starts on September 29, Saint Michael’s day and the very common catch consists of carp, rainbow perch . Many of the quenelles de brochet served in the grand restaurants of France come from the small and humble ponds of Sologne. The eels are often cooked a la poulette ( in a cream and egg- yolk sauce with mushrooms).
With the marshy nature of the land, you might even find fresh frogs for sale in the market and also the forests abound with them and its a best way to get them because if you buy them at the market you will learn that the ones that get caught are reared in captivity like most of the trout and carp that are sold.
I have to stop the article because of problems of downloading pictures .