Vivons Livres!

There are book festivals galore this time of year in France, with at least three this month dedicated just to crime fiction, along with other more general events. This weekend, I was following author Peter May’s account on Facebook of the Brive Book Fair, the second largest book fair in France, and I went to Vivons Livres in Toulouse, a smaller, much more local event. The name roughly translates as “Experience Books.” And this we did, in a very French way. One of the themes this year was gastronomy, and the weekend was filled with food- and book-related activities for young and old alike. So while my daughter made a chocolate-on-chocolate painting, I spent an hour and a half listening to a historian, a journalist and a one Michelin-star chef talk about truffles. The panel covered information as key to the epicurean heart as whether it is best to follow pigs, dogs or flies to the truffle under the tree (the flies arrive when the truffle is at peak ripeness, pigs require some real handling skill if you don’t want them to eat your harvest, and dogs will try to make you happy by finding truffles that may not be all that ripe). I also learned that truffle flavor changes as the host tree ages, that truffles harvested in March freeze better than those harvested in December (as if this were an everyday issue of concern), and that it is best to brave a truffle market with a trained eye and lots of cash. Be forewarned: tourists get fleeced. The three panel participants—Laurent Croizier, author of the Petit livre de la truffe, and the two authors of La truffe sur le soufflé, Jean-Pierre Alaux and Alexis Pélissou—were all articulate and passionate about the topic, and had great recipes ideas to share. I walked away dreaming about a visit to the said chef’s restaurant Le Gindreau.