This most sparsely populated department of Languedoc-Roussillon is rugged and mountainous but crossed by many rivers and densely forested in places, all of which lends the local gastronomy a truly unique flavour.
In an environment suited mainly to shepherds, hearty dishes such as aligot (pomme purée with melted cheese and garlic) were needed to sustain them in their work… even monks and innkeepers would have served something similar to the pilgrims passing through on the Chemins de Compostelle. Aligot can still attract a queue of people when it’s sold at festivals and markets now. In fact, one of the major benefits of visiting the Lozère in summer is the additional market days.
The rich and creamy fromage known as Tomme is by far the best option for aligot, but the Lozère also produces five AOC cheeses: Bleu des Causses, Laguiole, Pelardon, Bleu d’Auvergne and Roquefort – who hasn’t heard of that one? Farms displaying the ‘Bienvenue à la Ferme’ label will be happy to show you exactly how they are made and introduce you to their herd of sheep, goats or cows.
As the Lozère attracts lots of people who enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and cycling, the variety of cheese and cured meats that would have been a staple of the local shepherds’ diets, will make a delicious energy-rich addition to any picnic. You will fi nd a wide range of pâtés, hams and sausages in farm shops and markets in the area, not forgetting fresh cuts of grass fed lamb and beef.
For those in search of a lighter option, the local trout (wild or farmed) is delicious! The fish here live in crystal clear water that has run off the mountains. The Lozère’s rivers and lakes are great places to fi sh with some of the biggest specimens to be found in the Bayard-Villefort reservoir and on the edge of the Tarn Gorge.
In such a beautiful natural environment, where wild flowers, chestnut groves and heather are thriving, so are honey bees. Many of the local beekeepers also produce scrumptious berry fruit jams, as well as sticky gingerbread and other sweet treats.
There are plenty of chestnuts to go round too, not to mention innovative uses for them. How about a bottle of chestnut flavoured beer or a drop of chestnut syrup in a glass of Champagne? The chestnuts are so popular they are celebrated all over the Lozère in October with festivals being held in Saint-Michel de Deze, Saint-Julien de Deze and Saint Germain de Calberte.
The French have a special affection for chestnuts, devouring whole boxes of marrons glacés at Christmas and spreading crème de marrons on their toast for breakfast. So if you want to find out what you’re missing, pay a visit to the Maison de la Châtaigne et du Châtaignier in Saint Martin de Boubaux – a museum dedicated to the humble chestnut. Allez, go nuts!