Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Pigeons of Mesquer


Kill no more pigeons than you can eat. 
Benjamin Franklin 

I am thrilled to have my story The Man Who Spoke to Pigeons: Rémy Anézo and Les Pigeons de Mesquer published on Modern Farmer. You can find the piece online here

Interviewing Matthieu Anézo at Les Pigeons de Mesquer

This is an article that is dear to my heart about a man with whom I am connected in two ways, through his lovely niece Mathilde, a friend of mine, and my own son Clem. Here is my story of how the interview and the article came about: Rémy Anezo is what the French call un homme comblé, a contented, satisfied man. He is surrounded by what he loves the most in the world every day from morning to night, living out his dream. A beautiful, tranquil setting and thousands of pigeons are his mission and his mainstay. And he is perfectly happy spending everyday in this universe he has created.

Pigeons. The idea of pigeons reminds me of Piazza del Duomo in the center of Milan, Italy and the hundreds upon hundreds of crazily flapping wings, the sharp tiny beaks coming perilously close to one’s legs, pigeons swooping much too close to one’s head. Pigeons remind me of every European city I have ever visited and the thin spikes left atop monuments to keep them from roosting; pigeons remind me of the various run-ins with our dogs and the one time Marty snapped at one as it crossed his path and…lunge…chomp and we were faced with a small Boston Terrier with a tremendous pigeon clasped in the iron grip of his jaws (The Strange Incident of the Dog and the Pigeon). Husband calls them rats with wings and shudders when he considers them at all.

Yet I know that pigeon is a culinary delicacy. Our very special wedding anniversary meal at the Michelin-starred La Mare aux Oiseaux an hour outside of Nantes showed me just how special when I saw “pigeon roti de l’ami Rémy” on the menu and although I did not order it, it stuck with me, my curiosity was certainly aroused. Pigeon with tender sweet French peas is a classic dish in this country since the time of Louis XIV. Yet what a coincidence when my friend Mathilde told me that Rémy is actually her uncle! Standing in my kitchen as we used to do, making macarons together and jabbering on about our lives, she informed me, as we were discussing possible subjects for articles that I could write, that not only is her father a fourth-generation salt farmer but her uncle raises pigeons, pigeons appreciated and sought after by many of France’s top chefs. This, I knew, would make a great story! So I called Rémy and set up a date to drive out and meet him in Mesquer at his pigeon farm. With JP. Who, I must admit kept a serious, straight face even when confronted by so many pigeons, up close and personal.

With Rémy Anézo

His place – Les Pigeons de Mesquer – is a pretty, idyllic setting, calm and quiet, but for the elegant cooing, and sits outside the lovely little picture-postcard village of Mesquer, so quiet, so sleepy when we drove through. But off to our meeting…

Rémy is a quiet but funny man, a mix of the old-fashioned and the thoroughly modern who speaks of his pigeons with a man’s respect and young boy’s passion and excitement. A true artisan, he raises his birds organically and naturally in such bucolic surroundings one is quickly swept up into his world, his ideology, his passion. His own son Matthieu now works with him and the two together are obviously one hell of a dynamic team. Matthieu jumped in and out of the coops, scooping up newborns, tiny babes and adults with ease and familiarity as we talked and snapped photos. Rémy talked about his work with chefs and led us to the old barn that he is renovating to make way for a demonstration kitchen where chefs come and teach classes for visitors… a barn that my own son Clem and his partner Valentin redesigned. Some connection, right?

And today…. Today my article about Les Pigeons de Mesquer and Rémy and Matthieu Anézo is published on Modern Farmer!

A funny ending of the story: Rémy generously and kindly handed me a bag of freshly killed and plucked birds to take home. We did. JP cooked a beautiful pigeon with peas. We sat down at the table to eat, took knife and fork in hand and as I carved off a piece and tasted – and truly enjoyed it (but I love game) – JP stared at it for a while, obviously gathering his courage and trying to put aside his prejudices – and finally put down his knife and fork, pushed himself away from the table and said “Sorry but I just can’t!” Well, more for me, I say.

(Please do leave a comment at the end of the article… all comments and all sharing are greatly appreciated!)


lisa is cooking said...

Congratulations on your article for Modern Farmer! I had the pleasure of eating a pigeon course during a meal in Spain last fall. It was delicious!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Congratulations! How thrilling.

An lovely place and interesting man.



Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things said...

Such an interesting piece, Jamie. Congratulations on the publication in the journal. I've not tried pigeon… not a huge fan of game-tasting meats/birds, so perhaps I too might not eat it? :(

Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said...

It's funny, I just knew it was going to end this way. I'm with JP. I find game a bit to gamey but if you cooked it, I'd at least taste it. I'll admit that the thought rats with wings would be a turnoff in the eating phase.

I loved this article and the connections were too good not to share with everyone.

mlaiuppa said...

I would try pigeon.

I've tried ostrich and gamecock.

Would depend on how it was cooked.

And I don't think I could eat those little sparrows, like in Gigi, where you cut them in half and then eat them bones and all. Sorry, but have to be a no on that one.

What a happy serendipity everything aligned for you to interview Rémy.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Hehe I loved it when hubby didn't like foods like oysters-more for me indeed! I'm off to read the article now :D

A Canadian Foodie said...

Congratulations, Jamie. What a beautiful story!

Jill @ MadAboutMacarons said...

I'm fascinated by pigeons, Jamie. I posted on my blog a recipe in the early days and it seemed to flop - and I received a lovely comment saying, in the US, they'd have to shoot one in order to try the recipe. In France, it's so easy to find them at the market at this time of year. My Scottish Grandpa had prized racing pigeons, so he would have turned in his grave to know his ex-Vegetarian granddaughter was eating them (I also understand your husband!)

Bravo on the published article. Going to read it now - bet it flies!

Brooks said...

Magic happens when a man finds his passion and lives it wholly. This piece and the one published in Modern Farmer are beautifully written. The world gets smaller and more tangible when you're at your keyboard.


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