The roast quail came to us in boxes. I had to ride my motorbike to the bus stop, the bus having come from Chalon sur Sâone, the nearest city of any size. The driver would pull the boxes of quail off and hand them to me. Once, they arrived a little putrified, thanks to the warm summer temperatures. We cooked them anyway. What’s a little gangrene on the palate?
I also had to fetch the milk every morning. This involved jumping on my motorbike and tootling down the road to the old lady’s farm. She had one or two cows. I would stand next to the cow while she squirted the milk into the bucket. Then back I went with maybe two liters of fresh, warm milk. This was used for café au lait for us and for the guests, who occupied the five rooms over the restaurant.
This milk was of course inoculated with the lactic acid bacteria coating the cow’s udder. So, when you left it out overnight, it formed a very nice yogurt. Today’s milk is refrigerated immediately, and the result is a lifeless fluid—lacking the lactic acid bacteria, which are thermophilic, meaning they like warm places and don’t do well when winter comes. Today’s milk spoils by turning bitter because the lactic acid bacteria, which are so important for proper gut functioning, have been destroyed.
Besides fetching milk, I regularly drove down to the creamery to get butter. They had a large, wooden churn, perhaps 6 feet in diameter. I also went to the charcuterie for sausages. They had a small stone house that projected over the river with a hole in the floor. They would slaughter the pigs there. Of course, the butchers would save every drop of blood, which was prized for thickening civets, stews with rich, dark sauces. And the blood was also useful for sausages such as boudin noir. The hole in the floor was to drop chyme to the fish. The pig’s intestines would be full of partially digested food, a real fishy treat.
The butchers made dried pork sausages, saucissons secs, as well as fresh sausages that you had to cook, saucissons à l’ail. They showed me how they would mix bacteria with the raw pork allow it to ferment overnight in a basin at 55 °F, then stuff the pig guts and hang them to dry and mold.
Once the chef was out of lettuce. Being an enterprising sort, I drove through town, knocking on doors, explaining that Chef Lauriot was out of lettuce. Several people gave me heads of lettuce, and back I went.