In Licques’ important sq., a large cauldron of turkey broth was steaming over a blazing hearth pit and being ladled out to serve the incoming crowd. “Come and have soup,” referred to as the girl handing out the paper cups. “It’s actually warming, it’s free!” I took a sip, a welcome deal with because the temperature dropped to -2C. The serving of la potée (the hotpot) marks the beginning of the Fête de la Dinde (competition of the turkey), held each December in Licques, a small city close to Calais famend for its poultry, with 80 producers amongst a inhabitants of simply over 1,600.
I had come for a fast pre-Christmas jaunt to refill on some connoisseur treats from Boulogne and Saint-Omer and to take in the festive environment in Licques. This 12 months’s competition was the primary after two years of Covid-related cancellations, and locals chattered excitedly as they sipped the new broth and listened to native TV character Bernard Seitz do the introductions by way of a booming loudspeaker.
Seitz informed the rising crowd how the competition had begun within the Sixties, when native producers would deliver their reside poultry to the principle road two weeks earlier than Christmas to point out them off and take orders. In regular years, the competition sees a parade of turkeys being herded up the steep important road by native youngsters and members of the city’s guild, or “brotherhood”, of these working within the business, however efforts to stop the unfold of fowl flu put paid to the custom this time.
Regardless of. As a substitute of the gobbling gaggle, the parade was led by a 4ft stone statue of a turkey named Alfred on the again of a tractor-drawn trailer.
Behind Alfred had been the brotherhood — la Confrèrie de l’Ordre de la Dinde de Licques — with males in cavalier-like costumes and ladies in blue and white robes. They had been joined by greater than a dozen different brotherhoods, representing specialities from the Hauts-de-France area and past. The grand grasp of the turkey brotherhood, Man Savary, together with his spectacular moustache and feathered hat, took over the mic and launched every group as they lined up.
Amongst them was an ebullient group from the Confrèrie des Fous de la Patate Azteque à Esquelbecq — actually, the Brotherhood of the Aztec Potato Madmen from [the village of] Esquelbecq — wearing potato sackcloth robes with colourfully embellished hats. There was an extra-warm cheer for the brotherhood of brewers and distillers, who had come all the way in which from Belgium, whereas the three members of the Grand Ordre Worldwide des Dindons du Périgord sported pilgrim-style hats as a nod to the turkey’s North American origins.
Subsequent, an area bagpipe participant warmed up the gang for the visitor of honour: Michel Pruvot, France’s most well-known accordionist. With Pruvot squeezing out the tunes subsequent to him, Savary launched right into a loud rendition of the “Hymn to Licques”, with lyrics that remember the city’s poultry-rearing and a catchy refrain that everybody joined in with. Then, with the gang that had swelled to round 250, we set off up the hill to the competition tents, singing the hymn on repeat.
Whereas everybody gathered within the tent, I paid a fast go to to what stays of the Twelfth-century abbey over the highway. There I learnt how, within the seventeenth century, the monks launched turkeys to the realm and taught villagers tips on how to rear them. The free-range poultry, consumed a weight loss program of cereals, has protected origin standing (IGP) and the Label Rouge, France’s signal of high quality assurance.
Chickens and turkeys had been being bought at stalls within the tents, alongside cheese, snails, wine and smoked salmon. I purchased a number of issues after which took my seat for the feast. Rows of lengthy refectory tables had been got down to welcome some 300 guests, lots of them retirees (apparently the youngsters had been nonetheless recovering from a disco the night time earlier than), and we sat down, nodding our “bonjours” over the music from Marie-Pierre et Momo, a singer and keyboard participant. We tucked into white pudding sausage with apple sauce, then an enormous plate of roast turkey and chips.
By the point I got here to depart, Pruvot was on stage together with his accordion. The dance flooring was full and everybody was waving their fingers within the air to the music. Even the 2 turkeys in an enclosure within the nook of the marquee gave the impression to be completely happy. As I crouched right down to bid one in all them farewell, he pecked out and devoured loudly.
For particulars of subsequent 12 months’s competition see licques-volailles.fr. Carolyn Boyd was a visitor of Pas-de-Calais Tourisme (pas-de-calais-tourisme.com) and Eurotunnel (eurotunnel.com). She stayed at L’Apartement Merveilleux, on Rue Henri Dupuis in Saint-Omer (tourisme-saintomer.com; from €145 per night time for 2 individuals). Eurotunnel carries automobiles from Folkestone to Calais, a 25km drive from Licques, from £82 every manner
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