A VIDE-GRENIER is a sort of amateur flea market. They have them all over France every Sunday.  Most villages offering just one in spring and one in autumn.  It literally means EMPTY-THE-ATTIC and that is exactly what people do – displaying everything they no longer have a need for, in the hope that someone else does… from obscure farm equipment and blackened silvery preciousness, to outgrown toys, ancient embroidered sheets, wonderful old chairs and fauteuils, and granny’s last shoes.  Because of its randomness (and the fact that IKEA is more in vogue nowadays) you risk finding all sorts of goodies – many of which you’ll recognize as props in my food photography..

Olargues is as typical a French village as you get – nestled into a mountain side with its steep streets running towards the church in the centre. These mountain people don’t seem to laugh and joke quite as much as ‘chez nous‘ (no doubt due to constant fog and rain) but we loved our visit and roamed around for a while, discovering at least one more bridge built by Gustav Eiffel (there’s lots of them in the Languedoc.).

Last Sunday, it was the village of Olargues that caught my eye, situated high up in the Black Mountains above St Pons.  The weather is not always predictable, but we dared and we won.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But when tummies started to rumble (at precisely 12 o’clock – as they do here in France) we decided to stop for lunch at the one-and-only hotel/bar/restaurant in town. It was called LAISSAC.  Typically too it was run by Dad (kitchen), Mum (diningroom) and their 14-year old son who was in charge of the bar (no one worries much about under-age slavery or exposure to alcohol-abuse in French country pubs).

When I say we were whisked straight back to the late 60’s, it is an understatement – some of it harked back to the 50’s, complete with authentic 50’s furniture, styrofoam ceiling tiles, plastic Poinsettia decorations left over from 20 Christmases ago,  well-used vinegar/salt/pepper sets and cheap metal breadbaskets. How cool is that?

There was only one other couple well in their 80’s who probably never noticed that time had moved on. They looked as if they seriously enjoyed their cozy Sunday lunch – tucking in with gusto, still dressed in coats and scarves, dentures clicking in cheerful unison…

Mountain Pheasant with Chestnuts

Admittedly, the décor from years hence was more interesting than the menu (even the normally spectacular Chateau Gourgazaud Minervois had seen better times).  The ‘mountains’ are known for their great but seriously unhealthy charcuterie.  And no doubt because they are so isolated, they have a great local boulanger as their fabulous rye bread tastes unlike any specimens I have tasted before.  Thus, a copious plate of exceedingly unhealthy mountain charcuterie for himself and a salad with hot crunchy duck innards (called gésiers) for me.  This was followed by Pheasant with Chestnuts and Mountain Ceps (ugly and messy, but pronounced delicious) and an entrecote which was more like a tough ould piece of boil-in-the-bag brisket.

…retro steak…

And then there were retro spuds… served of course in retro baskets…

… retro spuds, in retro dishes…

And there was more retro furniture..

…. more retro furniture….

… and another super-retro Gustav EIFFEL bridge….

…. another Pont Eiffel….

…. and a retro rainbow…

…. and a secretly taken picture of the retro co-diners, the sound of whose dentures I’ll never forget…

And finally….. more retroprops saved from oblivion and forget…

….more props ‘saved’ from oblivion….

…. retro co-diners….