What We Eat
The French are known for what they eat, not only all of those rich sauces but things many Americans wonâ€™t eat due to that â€œyuckâ€ factor. The list is fairly long containing such things as frog legs, snails, raw oysters and then many things we in the south call
My mother who became very anemic when carrying me (she also says she almost died during her delivery making me feel guilty for many years) was told to eat calf liver at least once a week, liver being loaded with iron . My mother was the only one in the family who would eat it. It always smelled so wonderful to me as she fried it up with onions but every time I tried a taste I almost gagged. I just didnâ€™t like the taste.
Forward many years and I was in France refusing offers of foie gros. It was goose or duck liver so it couldnâ€™t be good. Then I ordered a salad and a slab of foie gros was put on the top of the lettuce. I took a small bite with a large bite of lettuce and discovered, to my surprise that I liked it. It didnâ€™t have that really strong taste of beef liver but was sweet and creamy in texture. I never turn it down now. I try not to think of geese being force fed to the point of bursting as I eat it just as I have learned not to think of cattle or baby calves as I cut into a juicy steak.
I have gone on to try frog legs which are a little like chicken in taste but I keep picturing the whole frog while eating them and donâ€™t eat them if I can avoid it. I will have a raw oyster or two at Christmas, a tradition in France, and I like that salty taste of the sea and have it with a slice of bread with butter and some nice white wine, but I canâ€™t down a dozen like Maurice.
Sometimes something will be on the menu at a restaurant and I will ask Maurice what it is. He sort of pauses, trying to think what it is in English, and usually end up saying, â€œPartsâ€. I have come to learn that means â€œinnardsâ€, or parts of an animal that come from the interior. Iâ€™ve tried a few of these, usually a sausage type of food and at first they taste pretty good but then a taste slowly develops in my mouth like a barnyard smells. Hard to describe but it puts me off what I am eating and I have trouble finishing.
There are some foods that I donâ€™t think I will ever try. Rabbit is one of those. It is probably because I never had it growing up and I canâ€™t get past that Thumper image from Bambi. Maurice loves rabbit cooked in mustard. I suppose one of these days I might try a taste. I remember our neighbor had us over for drinks and one of the appetizers was quail eggs with a little sauce on top. Iâ€™d never had them before and was really afraid to put one in my mouth, afraid of the taste. I didnâ€™t want to appear rude so I finally shoved the whole thing in my mouth and was surprised to find it tasted exactly like chicken eggs.
I donâ€™t see myself ever trying horse meat either. It was very popular here in France through the years, especially during the war years when beef was hard to come by. It is still sold here and the shops have models of horse heads above the doors. The meat itself is very red and it looks low in fat. It has slowly died out of favor here but there was a resurgence in buying it during the mad cow scare. Maurice isnâ€™t sure but he thinks he may have had some at some point as he was growing up. I just have that cultural thing and I am sure that I will never eat it. I used to ride one, maybe thatâ€™s why.
Sometimes when Maurice and I arenâ€™t together, he will buy a calfâ€™s brain to eat. This is truly disgusting to me. I try not to even look at it if he brings one home. They are very small, about the size of an apple and when Maurice fries it in butter, there isnâ€™t a bad smell but I just donâ€™t want to see it on his plate or watch him eat it.
It is amazing what cultures consider quite ordinary in their culture for consumption while the rest of the world would gag-such as eating dogs in China or monkey brains in Africa, not to mention various bugs. There are things Americans eat that the French look at with looks of disgust such as peanut butter or stuffing in turkeys, marshmallows on yams.
I did learn not to order anything with the word â€œteteâ€ in a French restaurant as this means head. Maurice happily ate his-it came out in slices on his plate- but I happily had my roast chicken. I have crossed that cultural line a few footsteps here and there and I am trying things I had never even heard of before but there are some things that will remain in that strange realm of things the French eat.