It is traditional here in Gascon France that when one turns 32 again, it happens on the second night of Thanksgiving. It is customary that on the night before your anniversaire one eats dinde americaine. Then upon waking on ones big day, one immediately sets off with ones companions (in this case ones sister and yours truly, the narrator) towards the ancient source of cassoulet and to a restaurant one has been meaning to visit for three quarters of ones 32 years. When ones party finally reaches the village of St Felix de Lauragais, we are seated at the window (because it is ones birthday) and we are but one of three parties at the anointed restaurant.
Once seated, we take in the Lauragais below us. And we drink champagne...of course, we drink champagne.
And then the cassoulet feasting begins...
When somewhere around the time one starts ones foie gras au torchon, the chef's wife comes by to say something special is going on over there at that table of businessmen -- an ancient hare dish of some sort, one sends your narrator over to shamelessly take photos.
And you overhear the chef recite the recipe...
"Take a large hare and marinate it for four days in port, cognac and red wine and something else (your humble narrator has forgotten). Then stuff it with foie gras and roast it, basting it well with the marinade. When the hare is done make a sauce of the marinade, pan juices, the blood of the hare and chocolate. Serve this with quenelles of truffled potato purée. Use the whitest potatoes available. Drink the most expensive wine in the cellar and follow the meal with cigars. "
When the Lievre a la Royale hullabaloo is over, we turn our attention to our own task: cassoulet.
A ravioli of gesiers also found its way to the table.
And once our second helpings were consumed and we were full to our eyeballs of the never ending beans, duck confit, pork rib and Saucisse de Toulouse, the desserts arrive...with the chef...and a sparkler.
"Joyeux Anniversaire" says the tuile plaque.
What happens after lunch is another story.