Sunday, 18 September 2011

Sospel's Harvest Celebration and Discovering Donkey Milk

I left Canada earlier than usual this year which meant that I didn't have a chance to indulge in one of my favourite fall traditions:  visiting as many Ontario agricultural fairs that my tolerant husband will let me drag him to, poor man.

So last Sunday when I spotted a flyer for the Fête Agricole Sospel, and after a bit of sweet talk, we jumped in the car and off we went. 


Sospel is about 12 km inland from Menton as the crow flies but it takes about 40 minutes to drive there.  Why?  The road is like a roller coaster, all hairpin curves, up and down mountains through a beautiful forest and past little villages perched on cliffs, some of them enveloped in frothy clouds. 

Display of Local Produce
With a population of  about 3,500 it's a charming and quiet place with little cafes, shops, and the imposing but beautiful Cathedral St Michel which was completed in 1762.  

Sospel is also a handy launch point for peaceful and sometimes challenging hikes along the Roya and Bevera rivers.  We've often hiked with friends to the pretty little Italian village of Olivetta from here.

Sospel is also home to my favourite sospellois, or resident of Sospel,  Gilbert, who produces reliably fresh eggs and sells them in the Monaco outdoor market.  He is one of Sospel's many producers who take advantage of the free irrigation provided by the Bevera river.

As with all little adventures, this one led to a new discovery:  lait d'Anesse or donkey milk.  The producer, Stephane, makes lovely soaps and creams from his donkey milk which he told us is quite sweet tasting, a bit like almond or coconut and about the same composition as human breast milk. 

Apparently, female donkeys produce far more milk than their foals need so the extra sometimes goes to hospitals to be consumed by patients who are lactose intolerant and into cosmetics such as creams and soaps. 

Clearly, much more research is needed here and at the first opportunity I'll make a special trip to Stephane's farm to try some donkey milk followed by a post all about it of course.

I think the spirit of the Agricultural Fair generally remains the same world-wide:  a showcase and celebration of all the good things that were produced in the season by the dedicated people who produce them.

"Natural Care from Donkey Milk"
"Soap Made From from 30% Donkey Milk"


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a punkin! Nice pictures. They really give the "flavour" of Sospel. What was the elderly lady's name? Was she a vendor? -- Patty

Gustia said...

Yes I was quite envious of that pumpkin. I wanted to buy it and make everyone a pie! The elderly lady was participating in the festivities, not a vendor. She was the healthiest senior I've ever seen.