Good Food Blog
May DayPosted at 11:54AM, 30 April 2008 by Mary Cadogan - Food writer
On May 1st and only then or bad times will ensue, anyone can pick lily of the valley from the forest to sell in the streets without paying any taxes on their earnings. Each year there are clusters of stalls in our village square covered in buckets of prettily tied bunches of the flower. Neighbours and friends exchange bunches and wish each other bonheur (good times) for the year ahead.
no celebration would be complete in France without food
Of course no celebration would be complete in France without food being involved in some way and this day is no different. Here in the Charente it is customary to eat a special and rather curious snack (or casse-croute) at the heart of which is a local speciality called grillons, a type of charcuterie which is made by rendering down fatty pork for several hours with a little spice and seasoning, then shredding the meat and packing it into jars. Gros grillons is the same deal but uses belly pork which is kept in the piece.
These dishes would have originally been made around the kitchen table by the whole family, as despite being simple to make, they're time consuming to produce. These days they're made by every local butcher. Both are absolutely delicious and on this occasion are served with brin d'aillet, or young garlic shoots. These look a bit like spring onions, but have a mild garlicky taste and are served raw with the grillon and coarse sea salt.
They are also great cooked around a roasting joint or used in stir fries. If you want to try growing them, simply plant the small inside cloves only of garlic bulbs 1cm deep between December and February (the fat outside ones can be planted to give you garlic bulbs) and the shoots will be ready by late April or early May.
The celebratory snack is of course washed down with a glass or two of good local vin de pays such as Maison de Maine, or a gutsy red from our neighbouring Bordeaux.
So that's how I'll be spending this May Day - do you have any culinary treats planned for the bank holiday?