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My French Life: Fete de l’Entrecôte, Fruges, Pas-de-Calais

Fruges is a little town in the 7 Valleys area of Pas-de-Calais and has a rural charm and character that belies its slightly worn out appearance.  We went to the annual Fete de l’Entrecôte which normally means the festival of steak but in this case it means pork chop – held in conjunction with the village brocante (market).  Pork is big in this part of France and at this time of year there are pig and pork celebrations all over the place.

Celebrity  French chef Pépée le Mat was on hand to demonstrate regional cooking, she has a radio show and has written a fabulous book of regional ch’ti recipes.  (The OH calls her Peepee sur le mat – he thinks he is funny). With a microphone in one hand and a recipe in the other she was drawing the crowds to her stall and the food marquis where pigs were roasting over huge fires. Last year when we went there was a fire in the kitchens which doesn’t surprise me at all!  We were all encouraged to drink free rum cocktails while we waited for the fires to be put out and by the time the food was ready everyone was very merry indeed.

In the local café which looks as if it hasn’t changed in 60 years we sat sipping coffee that could wake a hibernating polar bear in the middle of winter it was so strong.  We could hear strange noises from the back of the café – like someone strangling a cat – and were very surprised when a band appeared from nowhere tuning up their instruments in the tiny café – believe me in a small space like that you certainly know it. They gave a quick rendition of “Desmond has a barrow in the market place – Oh bloodee Oh bloodah” and then wandered out on to the packed streets to entertain the masses which they certainly did in their eclectic gear and with fabulous rock star attitudes! The locals haven’t seen garb like this outside of MTV in this rural part of France! I really thought I’d nailed it with fooling the staff in the café that I was French as I’ve  been practising my ch’ti accent and words so hard but when we left the waitress said “bye bye” – damn, foiled again!

Fruges is a market town and there was no shortage of animals on show or for sale. I fell in love with some wonderful black ducks – Canard Indien – which I’ll probably be picking up next week and the OH fell for Cocky Rocky – a very colourful cockerel who’s now making himself at home and friendly to our chickens!  We’ve been thinking about keeping pigs and there were a dozen little piglets in a pen – I could happily have bought them all.  When they’re that small they are really cute but the size of the mother was a bit off-putting and the sane part of me was thinking about mucking out a pig pen full of mountains of pig poo.

Plenty of stalls with the usual weird and wonderful mix of goods kept me happy though I didn’t actually buy anything. The BIG ONE is coming soon – Montreuil-sur-Mer holds its annual antiques brocante every Bastille Day and it is without doubt the best brocante I’ve ever been to – year on year (of course I’ll be telling you about it here soon!).

I think Fruges is a lovely place, it’s fairly lively, nothing showy but some wonderful buildings and architecture are to be found if you know where to look – it’s just not in your face –  like the lovely water tap where the locals help themselves to free mineral water, the public gardens hidden at the back of the Public Library and old fashioned cafes and restaurants that haven’t been updated in decades.

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