When Chef Luzinier lived in his ancestral village near Bergerac in South West France, his grandfather had a particular way of drinking his soup. Every night of the year, bar none, Grandfather Luzinier would eat garlic soup, about which more in a minute, into which stale bread would be crumbled. When he was just short of fininshing his plate of soup, he’d ask his son, Chef Francis’ father, to fetch him the wine. He’d pour a measure of it into the not-quite-finished plate, swirl it so that the soup and the wine would mix and then drink the resultant dregs from the soup plate itself. A few minutes later, Grandfather Luzinier would ask to be excused and would make his way to bed.
The soup may not be your cup of tea or mine, but it is drunk in every village in the region of Bergerac by each and every inhabitant (I’m talking of natives of the region, not Germans and Danes who have acquired summer cottages in the now fashionable area). You absolutely had to drink it if you were newly married and your friends came calling at dead of night on your wedding night (de rigueur in Bergerac, apparently) and if you were elected the mayor of the province, you could hardly avoid hosting a banquet for the entire countryside featuring several courses, of which garlic soup was the one vital course. Chef Luzinier held a small intimate dinner recently for a few of his friends where he showcased the cuisine of his corner of France. There were sautéed cepes topped by a fried quail’s egg, a silky terrine of buttery foie gras, the garlic soup, tenderloin roasted with so much Burgundy that his entire staff watched in mounting horror. Served with mashed potatoes creamed with Elle et Vire butter and carrots three ways, none of the guests could make up their minds which element of the main course stood out the most!
The dinner continued with a perfectly ripe Brie de Meaux studded with truffles (decadence itself) and a walnut gateau. That too had a story behind it, because Luzinier has an eight year old niece who lives in the village with her grandparents and who is learning how to make the very same gateau. As we exclaimed at the happy coincidence, Chef Luzinier beamed with avuncular pride. Looks like our host will be forced to invite us for another dinner with a French menu before long: we enjoyed the first one so much.