Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.
~Edgar Degas

Several months after the fall of France in 1940, four teenagers and a dog, Robot, stumbled upon the now renowned Upper Paleolithic wall paintings in the Lascaux valley. With that chance find brought a wondrous era of knowing prehistoric art, touching our origins and realizing the awe of humanity and nature. The timing seemed ironic.

This complex of decorated limestone caves, La Grotte de Lascaux, is located in the Vézère river drainage basin in the département of the Dordogne. Magical messages from the depths of prehistory are encoded on these walls. Stunningly, there are nearly 2,000 painted figures, which can be grouped into three basic images: animals (bulls, bison, equines, stags, felines, et al.), human figures and abstract signs. Rooms include The Hall of the Bulls, the Passageway, the Shaft of the Dead Man, the Nave, the Apse, and the Chamber of Felines.

Many of the painted animals are depicted with multiple heads, legs or tails, which according to Marc Azéma of the University of Toulouse–Le Mirail and Florent Rivère, an artist based in Foix, intended to give life to and show beasts in action. Flickering torches and flames which passed over painted scenes would have heightened onlookers’ sense of seeing animated stories. The Lascaux cave has the greatest number of cases of split-action movement by the superimposition of successive images. These Stone Age images were likely the precursors to comic strips, motion picture cartoons, and modern animation — even cinema — according to their research which was published in the most recent issue of the journal, Antiquity. News of these findings has taken the art history world by storm. “Prehistoric man foreshadowed one of the fundamental characteristics of visual perception, retinal persistence,” noted Azéma and Rivère.

This is a canonical French potato dish originating in the gastronomically flush southwest (Le Sud-Ouest). Duck fat, a pantry staple in the Dordogne, imparts silkiness inside and golden crisp edges to the spuds.

POMMES DE TERRE SARLADAISES (POTATOES IN DUCK FAT)

1 lb fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise or Yukon Golds, sliced about 1/4″ thick

1/2 C rendered duck fat
4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary

Fresh parsley leaves, chopped (optional)

Rinse potatoes whole under cold water, then dry thoroughly and slice. Heat a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven (une cocotte) over medium high heat add the duck fat until just melted. Then add potatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. Toss together to coat well over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium and gently sauté, stirring occasionally, until fork tender, about 20-25 minutes. Remove and discard thyme and rosemary sprigs. Finish with optional chopped parsley.

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