Monday, September 5, 2011

Feet and Packages

I know nobody has slept a wink since I promised an article on meat last week. Nothing better than good  old, Monday morning meat read. And now, so that all the world can finally get a little rest, I will fulfill my promise....

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. 

And finally, I arrive at the last meat case. Five shelves high and stacked with all sorts of packages of meat bearing the picture of…a dog! NO!!

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.

Bon Appétit!



  1. Delana

    Beautiful Monday Morning Meat Post!

    Shame the Dog Meat wasn't Dog Meat - if you know what I mean?

    All the best


  2. This is very funny, not the best of readings with your morning cup of coffee, though!
    So many of the specialities that you describe are eaten in Italy too, but I think that the French stretch their ability not to waste any part of the animals to the extreme: ever heard of 'ris de veau'?

  3. I like kidneys and liver cooked properly but my boys won't touch anything like that so I only eat them if available on a restaurant menu.

    Ris de veau is delicious.

    I used to eat cold sliced tongue when I lived in the UK. That was yummy too, but you seem to have to make it yourself here and that I can't bring myself to do!

  4. How have I never told you that over the years I have developed a serious addiction to crème brulée ?!! (Yep, ignoring all the meat talk this morning.) Though last year, I actually didn't think of it until my return (maybe it was wearing a swimsuit on the beach that kept my lust at bay) is there anything from the US that you need for your preparation!?? Other than the tourch thingy of course! ;)

  5. All grist to the mill...brought up as I was on haggis.
    I found a French haggis in the Causses..made with maize meal...and it was extremely good.

    Here I am regarded with horror when I take a pig to be slaughtered as the locals regard any innards with revulsion and there am I scrabbling for the mesentery, the heart, lungs, spleen, liver and kidneys.

    Wonderful have inspired me to get out the hock and trotter I've been saving to be boned, stuffed, poached and served cold.

    But I'm not eating foie gras...know too much about it...and I'm not eating frogs' legs...know too much about the methods of despatch to have an appetite.

    And fressure is on my limits...

  6. Hmmm. Read over Cheerios. I'm always leery when perusing a menu in France, trying to steer clear of these, er, delicacies. I often get handed an English version without asking, but I want to see it in French, too. Sometimes the English translation of some of those things that I know I won't be wanting sounds so benign.

  7. Just got back from Target where the most adventurous I got was grass fed beef... ask Steve the story about "parts (gonads) of a fish". Love you, and again, you are soooo entertaining. Happy Labor Day kiddo!

  8. I am truly an adventurous eater, but need to be egged on by friends after copious amounts of wine where the meats are concerned. I rather prefer "not to know" exactly what I am eating. I once considered bungie jumping too - hah!


  9. Even after two glasses of wine tonight (which usually makes me quite cavalier about what I'm eating), I felt a teensy bit naseous at this post.

    Really? Goat testicles? Horse meat?

    Ewww upon Ewwwww!

    Give me the fromage et baguette, please!

  10. I grew up helping my Great Grandma Matilda Paulsen (Danish) make giblet gravy and mincemeat pies out of animal organs, so I guess this is not all that different - except I have never been crazy about mincemeat either. I did like steak and kidney pies in England, but always ordered just steak when I had the choice. I like peanut butter, too. :-)

  11. Your post reminds me of why I am a vegetarian. I love animals too much to eat them. Traveling in Europe has revived my love for cheese though. We will head for France tomorrow and hope to see you in a few weeks.

  12. Ugh. I should not have read this post on Tuesday morning, which is really my Monday morning since yesterday was Labor Day. Thanks for the meat run down. The picture of the dog was much too cute for it to be dog meat. I think they would have used a picture of a snarling, vicious dog that someone would be happy to be rid of.


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