The moment of truth came last weekend. I was at a large dinner party, the sole American amidst a group of born and bred Marseillaise. All was going well. Too well. The hors d'oevres, though at times curious, were all things I've put in my mouth before. The champagne flowed and with it my ability to get along in conversation with very little trouble, in spite of some very thick Marseille accents. But there was a decidedly odd smell in the room. The smell of doom.
We were all seated and the hostess came to the table with a colossal caste iron pot, opened it up to serve and amidst all the oohs, ahs and ooh la las, my throat closed up as I recognized what was in the pot. It was the dreaded, disgusting, oh-my-I-could-never-in-my-life-eat-something-like-that, pieds et paquets (feet and packages)
I've explained these before but for a refresher, they are a mixture of sheep feet and little packages of sheep stomach (tripe) filled with some sort of stuffing which are cooked in a tomato based sauce. Here's a lovely, appetizing photo of these delicacies before they get to the pot.
I said, "Of course, I'd love to try them. But not too much please. I ate too many hors d'oevres." She FILLED my plate and I grabbed several hunks of bread to help push them down and asked for more wine.
I took a tiny, delicate bite. Hey, not bad. I took another as somebody began to explain exactly what it was it that I was eating. The hostess stopped him and said "after...it's better to explain after". He didn't need to explain, I already knew. But in fact, I enjoyed them very much as long as I didn't think about what it was I was eating. I can't say the same for the feet, which are cooked long enough so that the hoofs and bones sort of congeal. Eew! The texture was
I believe I won some brownie points for my handling of the situation because afterwards a few people asked me what I really thought. When I explained that I honestly liked the paquets but simply could not handle the texture of the feet, several people agreed with me and said they skip them as well. Well, now you all tell me! It's just too much fun to mess with the American, isn't it? I was also informed that this dish can often be crucified if the cook doesn't know what she or he is doing and this particular hostess is know for her excellent pieds and paquets. So at least my baptism by fire was overseen by someone with experience in pyrotechnics.
I would love to hear what sorts of weird things you've eaten and if they were worth the effort.
P.S. To all my American friends, please don't neglect your voting privilege today. We can't ever take that for granted.
P.P.S. There's a sale going on over at Provence Rugs and new items coming in this week. Check it out!