Posts Tagged ‘fete de l’ail’


I wrote this haiku a couple of years ago in the last week of June:

Garlic gath’rers pass,

Leaving the scent in the air;

It’s that time again.

It’s that time–again; but three weeks later than normal (due aux mauvais temps [bad weather] in May and June).


The question now hanging in the air (with the whiff of garlic!): will there be enough of the lovely stuff ready for the Garlic Festival–always held in our village on the first Friday of August?

Alice Frezouls, our neighbour, called in at noon yesterday with  bunch just lifted–a gift! She was hot from the field and called the work travail bagnard, which translates as hard labour–in the sense of a prison sentence.  (What must it have been like before the machine above took over the lifting?!)

She was making light of it though.


The fields are still unseasonably sodden and the clumps of garlic are coated with earth–adding irksomeness to the lifting and cleaning process.


The garlic must spend weeks drying out before being hand cleaned, plaited and sold.

This was done in barns open to the heat of summer air passing naturally through them.



Now with garlic production increased, noisy drying machines–great ventilator fans–are used more and more.

The first year this happened we complained to Pierre-Louis–our young farming neighbor. He came over and agreed that we were in a noise corridor where the sound of his industrial dryer was penible–difficult. He improvised with stacks of hay bales to blanket the racket and we lived with it.

He has refined the process and for the next month we are resigned to eating dinner on the terrace to the accompaniment of a low, single-noted wind machine–not a woodwind quartet–that drifts in and out of our consciousness.

The reports that the Garlic Festival risks being like Hamlet–but without the Prince–are exaggerated, or so we have been reassured.

If they’re desperate I’ll offer mine!


On verra!

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Last week it was La Fête d’Ail (the Garlic festival) in Lautrec; Tomorrow–La Fête du Pain (the Bread festival).

The French fill their summers with fêtes.

In 1954 Dad took me to the Everyman Cinema in Hampstead to see Jacques Tati’s Jour de Fete (viewable here free).

In pre-Monsieur Hulot mode, Tati plays the good-hearted but accident-prone village postman.

Two bits stayed with me: the flag pole sequence (which starts about 12 mins in) and the bicycle race–when he gets tangled up in a mini Tour de France and ends up in a river (about 1hr 10min in).

Now maybe not quite so hilarious but at the time I nearly choked, I laughed so much–(and bonded with Dad)!

Still seeing the funny side–years later!

Last week (it’s always held on the first Friday in August) ten thousand people teemed–albeit slowly–through the narrow streets of Lautrec, buying local produce and aiming for the central square where la soupe à l’ail (garlic soup) is dispensed free at noon–with a glass of warm rosé.

This is after the much anticipated announcement of the winners of the best tress

Tress Parade!

and the most imaginative object made of garlic.

“Snail” on its journey to…

…the Viaduct of Millau

The pink garlic–l’ail rose de Lautrec–is specially good and long lasting.

It has protected status and a lovely pinkish hue on the outside skin.

Not long after buying our house here, we took some to California where Meredith’s brother–in-law planted some cloves and ended up winning first prize in the Marin County Fair!

We told the story to the farmer in the next hamlet, thinking he might be amused.

After a long pause and looking like thunder, he growled—“c’est interdit!” (that’s forbidden!).

He needn’t have worried–the different soil composition in California–turned the garlic white!

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