La Halle au gras
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The butchery experts of Marchés au Gras de Gimont
The indigo night was still upon Kitchen-at-Camont when the alarm rang. My feet hit the wooden floor reluctantly, but coffee revived me enough to step out. The bright moon still hung over the ruins out back while the sun tinged the sky pink behind the chicken coop. By 8 the Renault buzzed through the frosty morning toward the Marchés au Gras de Gimont, Bacon the mutt ensconced in the hatchback’s boot. Once off the autoway we wound through farmland, fields surprisingly green with winter wheat. Others glowed golden with recently furrowed soil. We needed to arrive at before the 10 a.m. whistle from inspector. Just in time we joined the waiting crowd and plunged into the frigid sea of dead ducks indoors. We’d been warned about the frenzy but it was hard to imagine until we swirled abut in it. Everyone here was of a single mind: duck. Rows of white tables bearing the draped ducks competed for customers’ attention. Though bright sun spilled from the high windows, the exchanges between buyer and seller came out in bursts of white breath in the air. The mad dash for ducks was nothing compared to the measured intensity of the volunteer butchers. The white-clad men, some sporting chain mail on their fingers, hacked and cleaved with speed and skill that made my own earlier attempts pathetic. Lines 10 deep waited to tip the butchers a few coins for their work. We chose our ducks and were out of the market just before my toes turned to ice, off to thaw out with chocolat chaud.
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