Matthew is a friend of Kat and Ro’s, another US expat who lives in Toulouse. Through Matthew they got to know Gerard, who is the owner/chef of Mangevins Restaurant in Toulouse, around the corner from the college where Matthew teaches comparative religion. Our first stop in Toulouse was Matthew’s apartment, where we found him busily grading end-of-term papers from his classes. “Let’s all go to Gerard’s in my car,” he suggested. He told us that since his college is right around the corner from Gerard’s, he had a convenient parking space waiting.
Gerard greeted us at the door of Mangevins with huge hugs for Kat and Matthew, and equally huge ones for us. Gerard is, as they say, larger than life. He was carrying a huge dinner bell, which he began to clang on the sidewalk, as he announced in stentorian tones that the most discriminating Americans always choose his restaurant.
Gerard took care of us himself. First came the white wine, followed closely by beautiful salads with slices of foie gras. Then came bottles of red wine and some of the best lamb I’ve ever eaten. Somehow we managed to eat dessert too, after which Gerard pulled up a chair and produced a bottle of Eau de Vie along with five shot glasses and began to pour. The conversation was mostly funny, and when Gerard laughs, the building shakes. But before long my foodie wife and my foodie pal Kat and (it turns out) our foodie friend Matthew had turned the subject to “the perfect vinaigrette,” and Gerard held forth with great passion on the subject, pointing out how the recipe must vary depending on the nature of the greens being used.
Gerard poured another round of shots and soon produced a guitar which he handed to Matthew, and the restaurant was given over to an excellent early afternoon concert.
Gerard poured some more, and we talked US politics, always a favorite subject in Europe. And then we said au revoir, but not before planning a reunion. Gerard said that he and his wife, along with a group of friends, planned to visit the St. Antonin market the following Sunday. We agreed to meet there.
The chef and the foodie: Gerard and Terry
Matthew then took us on a fascinating walking and driving tour of Toulouse. As we walked around and looked at ancient Roman walls and squares that hosted executions in the 15th century, it was amazing how many locals stopped to listen to Matthew’s observations, and to add some of their own—always intelligent, and always on point.
Over the last few days, we toured some more, spending an hour with Kat’s favorite cheese merchant in Caussade, stopping on the way to St. Cirque de Popie at a wine cooperative that Kat had always wanted to visit. We were made welcome immediately, and the tasting lasted over an hour. At the end, two cases were loaded into the van to bolster Kat and Ro’s cellar, which they maintain at 300-400 bottles.
The road to St. Cirque follows the river through a narrow gorge. Where the gorge isn’t wide enough for the river and the road, they’ve cut tunnels through the rock for the two-lane highway. It is extremely picturesque, as is St. Cirque, where after lunch Terry went jewelry shopping and did moderate damage.
On our last full day we went back to the market at St. Antonin de Noble Val. We’d agreed to meet Gerard and his group at the outdoor café close to the market square. When they arrived, we were drinking coffee. “Nous sommes ici!” bellowed Gerard, and after introducing us to his wife Virginie and the two couples who accompanied them, he declared that the time for coffee was finished, and ordered the small table cleared. As more chairs were pulled up, bottles of wine appeared, Kat produced a pizza she’d just picked up in the market, and Gerard produced a local sausage that he’d just found. We talked and we laughed and we carried on ridiculously. Gerard decided that we should all sing American rock songs from the 60’s, and, amazingly, we did.
Below is the last photo I took on the trip. It was Gerard’s toast to l’amité entre les Etats-Unis et la France.
The next morning Kat drove us back to the airport, where we said au revoir to her and to Fea. As with so many trips we’ve taken, we look back with great affection and appreciation to all our friends, old and new, who always make our travels very special indeed. As Kat said, it’s all about the people.