The Pour: The Delicious World of Bruno, Chief of Police

Bruno grows vegetables and keeps chickens. He hunts black truffles and small birds. And he cooks well, rustic yet aristocratic fare like terrines, fish soups, veal stews and roasted chickens. A ham hangs in his kitchen, and while he loves a glass of good wine, he is mostly content with the local stuff sold out of a tank by Hubert, his local wine merchant.

Mr. Walker with Pierrot Simonet, the police chief who was the model for Bruno. Credit Rebecca Marshall for The New York Times

The first book in his series, “Bruno, Chief of Police,” was published in 2007. The protagonist was modeled on Mr. Walker’s friend Pierrot Simonet, the local police chief who, like Bruno, hates carrying a gun, prefers talking to lawbreakers over arresting them, and teaches rugby and tennis to the village children. The most recent book, “The Templars’ Last Secret,” was published in June.

I have been especially intrigued by Bruno’s world because the Périgord, where duck fat is a way of life, is a backwater for wine, even if it is just an hour inland from Bordeaux.

The Périgord has been continually occupied for 70,000 years, since Neanderthals hunted in the forests and early modern humans created the masterpieces adorning the caves of Lascaux. Though the region has winemaking traditions that date back centuries, its Bergerac wines are little known in the world beyond. Even so, the fictional denizens of St.-Denis cherish their local wines and foods, which they consume without pretension but with an intuitive understanding that comes from long experience.

I paid a visit to Mr. Walker, 70, in late spring. When he is not in London or Washington, he lives with his wife, Julia Watson, in a small town, Le Bugue, which straddles the Vézère river and serves as a model for the fictional St.-Denis.

He spent almost three decades writing for The Guardian and served as bureau chief in Moscow and Washington. It was while living in Moscow in the mid-1980s that he and his wife discovered this corner of France.

“Dear friends had moved there, and we would visit every year,” he said. “Especially when we were in Moscow, to be able to eat the food of the Périgord was pretty good.”

Though the region has winemaking traditions that date back centuries, Bergerac wines are little known beyond Périgord. Credit Rebecca Marshall for The New York Times

In 1998, they bought their own place, an old farmhouse, barn and pigeon tower on a quiet country lane, and quickly adapted to the rhythms and flavors of Périgordin life. Though it’s an area rich in the pleasures of the table, the region is among the poorest in the country by certain socio-economic standards.

“But it’s the highest quality of life,” Mr. Walker said over an evening aperitif, served with a rough country pâté and bread in his yard. “It’s the gastronomic heartland of France. The food just goes back and forth, and it’s a very nice way to live. Bartering fosters community.”

Getting into the spirit, Mr. Walker and Ms. Watson planted a potagerie, the garden of vegetables and herbs that is essential to French country life, and acquired a flock of hens, presided over by a rooster named Sarkozy.

As one would expect from a rooster, Sarkozy can be loud and blustery. Still his presence is a problem in other ways.

The couple cannot sell their eggs at the market in Le Bugue, which will celebrate its 700th anniversary in 2019, because European Union regulations prohibit a rooster from living with the egg-laying chickens. So they have entered the barter economy themselves.

“We’re all in the underground,” Ms. Watson said. “Not fighting the Nazis, just all the silly laws.”
NYT > Food