A book review by Franz Scheurer
It’s soft pink, like the skin of a freshly born piglet, with a pink and white chequerboard front cover reminiscent of tablecloths in rural France. Its unusual design, using matte paper with rather rustic photography, combined with the deliberate, unhurried approach in text, further evokes the slow discourse of life in country France.
It paints a gloriously romantic picture of the men and women who work with pigs: herding, slaughtering, removing bristles, cutting them open, removing intestines, and (whilst feeding the scraps to the dogs), slowly cutting them up and working them into recognizable pieces of meat, sausages and smallgoods. It glorifies the slow country life and Stéphane Reynaud’s heritage, in the small town of Saint-Agrève on the high French plateau of the Ardèche.
Pork & Sons is a great and nostalgic yarn, inspiring the reader to pack their bags and visit the slow life that seems to have all but disappeared from our existence. In me it brings back memories of my youth when it was normal for my father to hire a ‘roaming’ butcher to go to a farm, buy a pig for our restaurant, and slaughter it there and then. This occasion was always a highlight of winter, a chance to taste fresh black pudding and the uncooked sausage filling that my mother always warned me against. I never did get worms…
This book is also full of recipes. It’s interesting that they are down-to-earth, achievable at home and rustic. Not at all what you would expect from someone running a revered Paris restaurant (specialising in pork, of course).
I love the chapter on ‘Making black pudding’ and the pics that go with it; ‘black pudding with walnuts and chestnuts’ is a recipe that will brighten any winter day. The earthy ‘Warm sausage and Puy lentil salad with herb mayonnaise’ reminds me of the days when Janni Kyritsis cooked at MG Garage and the ‘Morteau sausage and smoked bacon with fresh salsify and shallot’ would cure any hangover. One of the more informative chapters is the one on hams, where Reynaud lists their classifications, clear, concise and easy to understand. I know real men aren’t supposed to eat quiche, but I bet most of them won’t be able to go past the ‘Fourme d’Ambert cheese quiche’, a dish that’s definitely ‘on the nose’. Shades of Fergus Henderson are unmistakable in the ‘Bibi’s head-to-foot terrine’ and the ‘Pig’s trotters with walnut oil and caramelised onion’ is just wonderful. I’m sure we’ve all had the ubiquitous pork roast so dry it reminds us of the Sahara desert, well, this will never happen if you follow Reynaud recipe for ‘Larded and studded roast’. But if I can only have one favourite, it has to be ‘Andouillettes with morels and vin jaune’. It’s a cracker!
This is one book that every pig aficionado needs and every serious cook has to have in his or her library. I am already looking forward to at least one French chef in Sydney putting the ‘Blanquette of pork’ on the menu!
Pork & Sons by Stéphane Reynaud, published by Phaidon Press (ISBN 978-0-7148-4761-0), will be available from 1st April 2007 at RRP $ 59.95