Laguiole Fontenille Pataud

The gentian

The yellow gentian grows on the Aubrac plateau between 800 and 1300 meters above the see level. It can be 2 meters high this is why its nickname is “the green skyscraper”. It takes 20 years to the plant to have its adult size. Some pretty little yellow flowers appear after 8 or 10 years of leaving and flowers every two years. However, it is the roots, called rhizome, that are used for several things: they are thick and can be 1 meter long and weight 5 kg.
In order to harvest the rhizomes, we call on a man cold “gentianaire” or “gençainaire” in the local dialect. The roots are deeply buried in the ground and it is a gargantuan task to extract them from the earth. It can only be made by hand.
They start the extraction in June until October. To collect, the farmer uses to specific tools :
– A pickaxe, called “anchor” that was used as a lever to unearth the rhizomes
– Nowadays, they use a steel garden fork that is at least 12,5 kg. They use to call it the “Evil garden fork”
This fork is narrow and the tine is made of two long teeth that are straight or slightly curved. They are usually 1 meter long. The teeth have been reinforced in order to make easier the removing and to resist the pressure due to the roots extraction. On the fork you can also find a footboard or two toe-clips on which the farmer jump in order to sink the teeth in the ground. A great “gentianaire” can remove from 200 to 300 kg of rhizome per day using only its arms strength.
The harvest of the day is placed into big jute bags that allow air to enter in order to avoid fermentation. Afterwards, they clean the roots with their Laguiole knife. They have to work very patiently and carefully to withdraw the soil and cut the buds.
The roots cargo is delivered to the cooperative where it is going to:
– Be macerated and distilled. Then the liquor and aperitifs can be produced. Gentian is also used to produce local drinks in other countries as in Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria…
– Be dried in glasshouses for 3 weeks et sold during winter to created pharmaceutical and herbalist products
The gentian root is used since Antiquity because of its digestives, tonic, purgative, refreshing, fortifying (etc.) virtues… It is on the medicinal plants list. It is also used to stimulate appetit.
As the « gentianaires » of Aubrac, have a look to the size of the yellow gentian, then you will know the height of the snow during the next winter.

Posted in Couteaux Fontenille-Pataud

Aubrac : a village perched on the plateau

Aubrac is a village in the municipality of Saint Chely d’Aubrac, in the Aveyron department, France. It is located on the way to Santiago de Compostela. That small village was built in the XIII century thanks to a cloistered hospital called “La domerie d’Aubrac”. The name stayed through the years. In French this name usually means “a high location”. Aubrac is 1310 meters above the see level and is the highest village of Aveyron and one of the highest villages of the Massif Central. 20 kilometres away you can also find the village called Laguiole. The Laguiole knife is called after the village since 1829.

In 1120 the monks built the monastery and the hospital in order to help the pilgrims in this wild region. In 1953 the monastery was completed with a 30 meters high tower intended to fight against the brigands. They used to come all over the region. The tower also intended to fight the exaction of the English: the tower is still today called the English Tower.

From the cloistered hospital we can nowadays see:
– The English tower
– Some buildings of the ancient hospital
– The Church Notre-Dame-des-pauvres

The bell tower of the church accommodates a “Maria” bell also called “Bell of the lost”. This area is favourable for loneliness. Moreover, the climate can be very harsh especially because of the wind from the north: they bring snow during the entire winter. The pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela could find board and lodging in the welcoming place thanks to the ring bell.

During the 1890, Dr Saunal advised patients to do some sojourn in high places in order to cure some pulmonary diseases. In 1902, Aubrac inaugurates a sanatorium where the therapy clients could enjoy an “air therapy” and a special milk called “gaspe” in Occitan. This milk is made from Laguiole cheese.

In the middle of the XXth century they stopped the cure and a big rural exodus happened. In the meantime, the traditional production decreased fast until it stopped. The commercial activity has been stopped at this period.

On their way to Santiago de Compostela the pilgrims come from Nasbinals and they walk along the pastures on the high plateau of Aubrac. They use the ancient ways called « drailles » where men and herds used to walk.

In Aubrac there is no corner shop. Tourism is the most important commercial activity nowadays. Many tourists come in the Aubrac region to visit a village called Laguiole. Laguiole is known since decades for its famous cutlery. The Laguiole knife is used by sheperds since 200 years. A big celebration happens at the beginning of May when the herds go from the village to the plateau: it’s called transhumance.

In 2000, the trade unions of the municipalities of Aubrac created « The House of the Aubrac ». The goal is to present the Plateau of Aubrac through exhibitions, scenographies, activities… Next to this place you can find a botanic garden in which there are about 650 vegetal species. They can all be found in the natural habitat of the region Aubrac.

Next to the village Aubrac, we can find a stone cross called “Cross of the 3 bishops”. It is located at the intersection of 3 departments (Aveyron, Cantal and Lozère) and 3 regions (Auvergne, Midi-Pyrénées and Languedoc Roussillon). Aubrac is located in the region of Aveyron, as is Laguiole and they are both emblematic villages of the region. However, the manufacture of the Laguiole knife is shared between Thiers in Auvergne and Laguiole.

Posted in Couteaux Fontenille-Pataud

Cheese from Aubrac : the Laguiole

On the plateau of the Aubrac, as in all the mountainous regions, the shepherds used domestics animals for farm work as well as pantry because they provided milk, cheese and meat. However, milk was very seasonal because milking and calf suckling was possible only when there was plenty of grass. In order to store the milk, the shepherds created the Laguiole cheese.

The manufacture of the Laguiole knife started in the earliest Antiquity but the monks from the cloistered hospital of Aubrac (called “La domerie d’Aubrac”) made it well-known. They transformed the forest into pastureland for summer, selected the bovine race that became later the Aubrac, develop the production of the Laguiole cheese and invent the famous dish called “aligot” (cheese and mash potatoes). Those new pastures are perfect for the herds, their milk and the Laguiole cheese production. The French revolution chased away the monks but they passed down the knowledges about the cheese production to the “buronniers” (local farmers). They work in their “buron” (house dedicated for the Laguiole cheese production) from May 25th to October 13th each year.
From 1897, the cheese producers created a farming and cheese trade union in Laguiole. In 1940 it became a defense and improvement union trade, they also own a quality label.

From the beginning of the XXth century, the fabrication and number of “burons” decreased. At the end of the 50’s there are only 55 “burons” instead of 300 and they produced 25 tons of Laguiole cheese instead of 700 tons at the beginning of the century. In order to relaunch the production of the Laguiole cheese, young farmers created in 1960 a cooperative called “The young mountain cooperative”. It helps making small farmers structures profitable. The cooperative helps them investing on new installations, modernize their equipment and the reunions of new livestock. Nowadays, the cooperation is collecting nearly all the milk of the region and is the first producer of Laguiole cheese. From the beginning the ambition was to create activity in the region while staying close to the tradition. In 1961, the Laguiole cheese obtains a egional label (“Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée” – AOC) that protects the product and the consumer. With this distinction, the Aubrac region was saved and started again to grow.

The Laguiole cheese is a pressed paste cheese, uncooked, produced only with whole milk from Aubrac cows or French Simmental cows. The milk is produced in Aubrac, a high plateau located between 800 and 1400 meters above the sea level.
The Laguiole cheese is a big cylinder weighting between 20 and 50 kg. It is affined at least 4 months in a cave. The rind is thick, white at the beginning and becomes amber-brown during the maturing. The paste color is between white and yellow. The consistence can be described as smooth and firm but also as creamy and fondant.
Nowadays, the cooperative is producing about 700 tons of cheese per year.

Posted in Couteaux Fontenille-Pataud

Ironwood & Laguiole knife

Ironwood specificities

Ironwood is a wood from Arizona (USA), rather dark, this wood can offer golden highlights with veins well marked. One of the specificities of ironwood is its weight, it is surely one of the heaviest and densest woods we know, as proof, this wood does not float. Generally century old, this wood can only be worked after a long period of drying. It is undoubtedly a noble and precious material.

Ironwood Laguiole knife

You will find on our website a huge range of Laguiole knives with an ironwood handle, the natural reflections of this material associated with our polishing technique gives to a Laguiole knife an exceptional rendering.

Laguiole knives

Posted in Couteaux Fontenille-Pataud

A knife, the perfect Christmas gift

A knife as a Christmas gift

The month of November has just arrived, Halloween is already behind us, and we will slowly switch to the magic of Christmas, and it is already time to think about the orders of gifts to avoid panic and rush of the last days.

Have you thought of offering a knife to one of your loved ones?  The perfect companion who will accompany him during all his outings in the restaurant or in the mountain. The object that will follow for many years and that can also be passed from father to son. A high-end handmade knife, if used with care, is a gift that can be kept for a lifetime and more. A knife is a useful and practical Christmas gift that will always please.

At Fontenille Pataud company, we offer many models of folding knives, for example the Laguiole Nature knife, this Laguiole knife has a safety system by blocking blade. On our online website, you can customize this laguiole as you please: steel blade, steel bolster and engraving on the spring. That said, if you want to offer a unique and personalized gift that will touch your loved ones, order your knife on our online website.

At the workshop, we are ready to make for you the perfect knife that will be deposited at the foot of your Christmas tree on December 25th.

laguiole knife molar tooth of mammoth


Posted in Couteaux Fontenille-Pataud