How wonderful that the final show of the tour provided the most decadent display of French food yet. We were taken out to lunch at a Rodez institution – La Taverne, a tiny, subterranean restaurant that was dark and dingy and lively, even at 2pm in the afternoon. We ripped through stone jugs of red wine and one cast iron cauldron of something that will forever haunt my waking state: jarret de porc, miel, citron, cannelle et coriandre. A thick soup/stew hybrid of pork – weird innards and chewy bits and all – and potatoes that has been braised what tasted like a mix of butter, orange juice, coriander and cloves, it was heady, aromatic, nourishing, outrageously decadent and best when eaten with chewy, sour farm bread with a firm crust and open crumb. Half-asleep and sated to the point of discomfort, I imagined Rodez villagers eating the same bowl of soup in the 1500s and felt so utterly medieval. It was basically the epitome of what I want all of my homecooking to taste like, because it wasn’t like restaurant food, not by a long stretch. It was something so much more than that, something sort of ancient and wise. I opted out of dessert, so as to avoid the fate of my elderly dining companion next to me, who passed out at the table after eating something with chocolate and cream in it.
The salad I had later that night – eaten in the conference room of this mysterious museum – had the most properly done vinaigrette I’ve had, maybe ever. It was so firm, almost standing up, opaque and tart and rich like custard. My vinaigrettes are always so… thin. Usually I just whisk olive oil, lemon and mustard together until something good happens. What am I missing? Rodez is a special place.