During one of my investigative trips to the big supermarkets here in southern France, and after I’d managed to extract myself from the cheese aisle, I did an exploration of the meat aisle. I first hit the cooler that bore a striking resemblance to the cooler in my old biology lab. I mean, what are these things before me that look so much like body parts and innards? After writing down the names and doing a translation I discovered that they were….indeed... body parts and pieces!
Here’s a sample of the sizeable selection of delicacies that somebody must be eating. We’ve got Tête de Veau, Pieds de Veau, Langue de Veau, and Cervelle de Veau, which translate to head of veal, feet of veal, tongue of veal, and brains of veal. Poor little baby cows.
Then there’s Rognon de Boeuf (as in beef kidneys) and Rognon Cubes (it’s nice to know you can buy these little waste processing factories pre-cut, don’t you think?) Then we move on to Cours d’Agneau (heart of lamb) and Crépine de Porc (the casing of pig intestines). Followed by Pieds et Paquets Marseillais, a gross looking pile of flesh that translates to “feet and packages”. But packages of what? I finally just found a definition today. It’s little packages of chopped ham, garlic and herbs all wrapped in the pretty paper of…. sheep’s stomach lining. And a particularly Provençal specialty. Oh goody! AND to top it all off, you can get the feet and packages in a value pack…enough for all your friends and family.
I realize that people in all countries eat these unusual things. And probably more so in certain ethnic groups or in particular regions of a country. When I was a bush cook in British Columbia, I prepared moose heart, elk liver, caribou tongue, mountain sheep brains and goat testicles. But we didn’t have anything else to eat! (I did. I had peanut butter. Which I lived on and which is where my whole peanut butter sickness began) I have asked my French friends explain to me... who eats this stuff? Many don’t, of course. But last time I inquired about brains at a dinner party, a grand argument began about the best way to prepare this delicious delicacy. I pretended to write down the recipes...but I had absolutely no intention of testing them in order to form my own opinion.
Okay, so on to the regular meats. Yep, we’ve got it all. We’ve got chicken and turkey and, of course, duck and rabbit which are both often eaten here. So we’re sure what we’re eating, there’s usually a little picture of the animal somewhere on the label. Then we move on to pork, beef and lamb (which is also a staple). So, I’m moving down the meat case, checking it all out and I land on Cheval Haché. Of course, that’s horsemeat and, yes, it’s eaten in France. Judging from the selection, it’s not eaten all that much, but it’s there and I’ve seen it on menus at a couple of restaurants. And a friend of mine told me it makes the very best tartare.
Please say it isn’t true. Not dog! This is terrible… more terrible than horse hamburger and pig intestines.
On closer inspection, I realized this was meat FOR dogs, not meat OF dogs. The French do love their dogs after all, and I was able to let out the breath that I’d been holding in horror.
I’m a reasonably adventurous soul but I’m not sure I’ll be eating sheep kidneys anytime soon. I’ll leave that to Chef Andrew Zimmer who, long ago, taught me to make a mean crème brulée and now makes a REALLY good living traveling the world for The Travel Channel and eating all sorts of disgusting things. Me, I think I’ll stick to writing. But I’d settle for making a REALLY good living traveling the world and writing about all the bizarre stuff that Andrew Zimmer is willing to eat.