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  • Neil Clifton

The Day I Went To Toulouse in White Tuxedo

I was minding my own business watching Keith Floyd on TV and noticed he was in the South of France at a market buying some ingredients for his next recipe.

Nothing strange in that, he has done this kind of scene all over the world, normally with a glass of wine in his hand and a recipe out of control, while Clive, his trusty cameraman is getting stick for not being able keep up with him.

There are a host of reasons to love Keith's approach to cooking, well for me there are anyway - its exactly how I like to cook, somewhat on the fly - away from strict measurements, using knowledge and experience to replicate something he has seen being cooked by locals, earlier in the day - Rick Stein is of the same vein normally adding "my take on..." before replicating a dish he has seen cooked while out on his travels. My recipes on this site are "my take on" recipes you can find all over the internet, I don't always have the ingredients but a sprinkle of this and a dash of that and they seem to work out.

Anyway, I digress - Dear Keith, was in the South of France on a roasting hot day in a bloody white tuxedo. Now I am known to be an extravagant dresser at times, I don't believe I am (doesn't everyone wear a cravat for fizz Friday?) but it is, what I am told - and I thought I quite fancy this - what could be better than a trip to France to look around a market dressed in a tux, a white one at that.

So I took to social media:

Around about 10 minutes later a friend replied, lets do it he says - there are 2 rules:

1. We have to wear a white Tuxedo.

2. We have to go there and back in a day and buy the ingredients for our dinner.

We were thinking maybe June time, you see my friend is a pilot and is very busy, not busy flying he is only part time, busy because he rears animals, looks after animals, is a Master of A drag Hunt and after seeing him in a white dinner jacket, probably has a part time role being a stand in for the latest James Bond.

Just an interlude about the animals he rears, I was lucky enough, several years ago to be the recipient of a wonderful Gloucester old spot he had reared. I had been down to visit my him and see the beautiful beast several times during the "fattening process" I had for some reason, named it Snouty. Well I can tell you Snouty was bloody delicious and the most perfect white layer of fat made for some incredible sausages.

My friend kept a leg for himself in bid to make Parma ham. I doubt you have made Parma ham, if you are doing it for the first time, there is always a chance that what you have waited patiently for for 75-90 days and it may just not have worked out, it could be infested and it just needs to be thrown away - I was there for the reveal of his home made Parma ham - and it was sublime.

He also reared a hogget for me, which I had the upmost privilege of cooking for a friend of mine at her birthday last summer, we set a fire by a lake in their grounds and slowly smoked half the hogget, while listening to a cracking match between New Zealand and West Indies in the World Cup. We then served 40 people with flat breads from the Roccbox's and slowly smoked hogget and various salads.

At this point I realise we haven't reached Toulouse yet so I will fast forward to Feb 6th, but it is important you understand that I am not the only one with a food obsession and I realise I am very lucky to have these opportunities and such wonderful friends in my life.

As is the rule when going "on holiday" you are allowed a drink at an airport at any time - so at 06:45 we started the day with a very enjoyable bottle of Champagne - forget not, we were in white dinner jackets and so it is the least everyone expected of us!

We made it onto the bus to transfer to the aircraft (and it was British Airways) which is where we came up against the first people who dared to speak to us "are you on a stag do" to which my normally very polite ("nicest bloke in the world") friend replied "It would be a pretty shit stag do with just the 2 of us, wouldn't it!" He had a point though. After we explained our story, a day trip to the market to buy our dinner, they promptly invited themselves round to join us that very evening, remembering, by the time we reached the plane, their meeting in Toulouse was the next day!

It didn't stop there, we were told we were "very handsome" by the air hostesses - I took this as a compliment as she said it to me, but only because my James Bond lookalike mate was already asleep - and I deduce, in the end, it was their way of being nosy and finding out why we were dressed as we were.

The greatest compliment was yet to come and it came in the form of passport control, a nervous time for any passenger. As I approached the gentleman in his protective hut, the first out of the only two people in the whole of Toulouse to be wearing a white dinner jacket that morning, a small smile befell his face and I opened my passport - "You are very beautiful" He said to me, a nod of the head and a wave of the hand allowed me to officially step foot across the border, without much more than token gesture look at my passport. The James Bond lookalike didn't even get chance to get his passport out he was waved through like he was Queen Elizabeth herself.

And so, via a taxi we make it to the market.

Remember, our object, to purchase ingredients to cook on our return to London after our early evening return fight.

I will leave you in the capable hands of, well, me and my Instagram story of the day.

And so there we finish, our menu is below - we bought new jackets because we anticipated staining them with red wine, or at least some kind of food, but both remained in tact - We felt it was sign - and maybe a day trip to Valencia is next on the agenda to learn how to cook paella?

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