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country life in france: the poultry fair

Poulet Caponnais.

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Farming is a very serious business in France, despite the continuing exodus to the cities. Here is an example of the diligence made by some of these true professionals.

Each year, in the rural heart of the South West, the poultry-farming community of turkey raisers, goose and duck foie gras stuffers, and roasting bird producers hold their Christmas Poultry Fair – the Festivolaille.

A way station town on the St Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage becomes a medieval fair with people and stalls filling the narrow streets. Stalls sell jams, honeys, sweets, preserved meats and a myriad types of dried sausage. Children learn to walk on stilts (a local specialty from the days before widespread drainage by planting pine trees, when everyone went on stilts to keep out of the marshes) and have their faces painted. More stalls, of local pottery, sabot-making (wooden clogs) and basket-weaving line the courtyard of the local monastery or abbaye, together with roasted chestnuts, quills (the French equivalent of skittles) and tossing the beret (instead of quoits). There are demonstrations of the local ballet with its high-kicking boys, and girls holding garlanded hoops.

In the abbey hall, sets of four competition turkeys (live) are exhibited, all dressed up in themes like the three pigs and the wolf and, topically, Rugby World Cup teams. Along the cloisters, are displayed sets of (dead) capons, dressed up in even more kitsch scenes such as a Ja-capon-ese Garden [below], Little Red Riding Hood/‘le Petit Capon (instead of Chaperon) rouge’, the ski resort. The best (worst) was ‘at the health spa’! [immediately below]

A capon health spa: welcome,bath,massage,relaxing

Le Jardin caponnais - the (J) capon-ese garden



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