Nutty celebrations at Laguépie
What a great way to spend a morning. We've just returned from our first ever chestnut festival and it was a true feast for the senses - particularly smell, sight and taste! The La foire a la châtaigne (chestnut fair/festival) at Laguepie - a local Occitan town - has been running for over a decade. It's a free to attend event and one which really didn't disappoint.
In fact, it proved to be an honest, non-commercial celebration of the humble sweet chestnut, full to bursting with people from miles around all savouring the taste of warm, doughy sweet chestnut bread, chestnut flour crepes slathered with chestnut spread, hot roasted chestnuts served in paper bags and chestnut aperitifs. Add to this local producers selling goats cheeses, foraged forest mushrooms and pommes aplenty and you've found yourself at a genuine French harvest time celebration. So why chestnuts? Well apparently, the two rivers which feed the surrounding steep forests and fields - the Viaur and the Aveyron - are what make this terrain perfect for sweet chestnut trees to grow and produce a bounty of nuts. Laguépie sits atop the confluence of these two rivers and was the centre of trade for the product up until the 1950s where it sent hundreds of tonnes of chestnuts by train across France. All of which has resulted in an impressive gastronomic legacy which we will definitely revisit. Autumn is proving to be a pretty special season out here. There seems to be a much better appreciation of what the fields and forests bring and the copious, seasonal harvests of nuts, fruits and produce seem to bring about fetes and celebrations in the local towns and villages - all of which reminds me of childhood harvest festivals, dewy grass, crisp mornings, blue skies and hearty food.