Bill Buford on the culinary genius, people and secrets of the city he now calls home
In a dining establishment in Lyon, you can eat pig fat fried in pig fat, a pig’s brain dressed in a porky vinaigrette, a salad made with creamy pig lard, a chicken cooked inside a sealed pig’s bladder, a pig’s digestive tract filled up with pig’s blood and cooked like a custard, nuggets of a pig’s belly mixed with cold vinegary lentils, a piggy intestine blown up like a balloon and stuffed thickly with a handful of piggy intestines, and a sausage roasted in a brioche (an elevated version of a “pig in a blanket”). For these and other reasons, Lyon, for 76 years, has been recognised as the gastronomic capital of France and the world. The world is a big place. Two and a half years ago, I persuaded my wife Jessica Green and our three-year-old twins that we should move to Lyon to see what was so good about the good food there.
Should I have proposed a two-week holiday? We had been happy in New York, in an apartment by a park. We had neighbours. We had friends. But, for reasons I didn’t understand, I felt I needed to learn how to cook the food of France and knew that I was going to have to get over to the country: to Paris, I’d always assumed. But where in Paris, and doing what? I interrogated chefs, including Daniel Boulud, whom I tracked down on a family vacation, and the great Michel Richard, whom I met on a train from Washington DC.