Horse Milk

Sometimes when I’m dining with others, the conversation has a way of drifting towards organ meats. Which we Americans, in general, tend to avoid. I guess it makes us an easy target and since I don’t like them much either, you may as well paint a bulls-eye on my forehead…

“You Americans!” I hear, “You are afraid to eat anything.”

But by now, I’ve gotten pretty good at this.

So I respond, “Well, do you eat dog?”

To which they responded with appreciable horror.

“Well, some people from other cultures eat dogs and cats. Do you eat them?”

Touché.

laitdejument.jpg

I never understand why people feel they have to convince you to eat something you don’t want. What’s it to them? Take squid, for example.

They’re repulsive, vile, hideously ugly creatures who deserve to die a fiery death…preferably breaded and deep-fried. With dipping sauce. I was terrorized by one once in my youth and never forgot that horrible, horrible day: My sister and her friends chased me around the house with the Marine World brochure, open to the double-page center spread of a giant squid. I hid under the bed, but when they tossed the wide-open book under there with me, no amount of counseling later in life would get me over that psycho-trauma. I can still smell the dusty carpet, which I was hugging in fear for my life, and taste my salty tears to this very day whenever I see any and all tentacled beasts. I’m sure you can understand that being presented with a pile of them on a plate holds zero appeal for me. Can’t you?

Still, people insist, telling me, “But you haven’t tried my fried squid” or “At (insert cheap ethnic restaurant name here), they have the best clay pot/deep-fried/sautéed squid in the world. You just gotta try it. You don’t know what you’re missing!”

Well, actually. If I refuse to eat it—what I don’t know, I can’t possibly miss. Now can I?

Anyhow. A few months ago I was at Le Grand Épicerie, Paris’ most exclusive supermarket. Due to the hefty prices and the fact it’s not in my neighborhood, it ain’t my usual go-to supermarket. But there I was, shopping for chocolate and thought I’d pick up some milk. How much more could it be there than elsewhere?

So I walked over to the milk and was ready to grab a bottle when I noticed the price. 12€.Whoa Nelly!

12€ for a liter of milk? – That’s about $15 per quart!

Then I noticed a picture of a little filly on the label; It was lait de Jument, horse milk. Then I really had reason to say ‘Whoa Nelly.’ Who’d a thunk it?

Since I posted a few weeks back about hamburgers made of horse meat, I’ve been thinking that it would make an interesting story about cooking my first piece of it. But every time I passed a chevaline, or horse butcher (and stop squirming: all of it here comes from North America), one look at the juicy, bloody-red slabs of meat made me think again. There’s only so much I’ll do for my readers. Getting me to eat Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream is one thing. Frying up a thick, rare slab of horse flesh is another.

But last time I was at Le Grand Épicerie, I noticed smaller bottles of Lait de Jument and thought it was time to give it a try. I can’t be an American wuss forever. Can I? So I brought home a little bottle. Then I chickened out.

Luckily for me, shortly afterwards the doorbell rang. And when I opened it, there was my friend Brett, visiting from San Francisco. Seizing the opportunity, I dragged him in and started lining up the shot glasses. Because we all know that he eats (and actually, gulp, likes…) squid, I figured horse milk was a no-brainer. So I uncapped the lid and started pouring.

brett&namita.jpg

We sniffed, then we swallowed. Then we looked at each other to see our reactions.

Not bad, we agreed. Not as shocking as we’d thought. We detected a light, hazelnut-like taste. The consistency was slightly watery, like reconstituted powdered milk, if you’ve ever had that. The bottle said it was a “good substitute for mother’s milk”, which was nice to know in case I ever get another craving for that. (Although I haven’t in the last 47 years, so I think I’m finally over it.)

The best part is now I have an ever better defense when defending some of my all-American eating habits. Just the mention of drinking horse milk to my French friends makes their face curl up in disbelief and a little bit of disgust. Yet it’s available right in their own backyard.



Related Links

-Plus d’information sur Lait de Jument.

-Not a pretty pour. (I drank that?)

-But it may make you pretty.

33 comments

  • Take squid, for example.

    More like: Take squid, please. ;)

  • David you are a brave man, bravo to you, thats for sure. You have to try it with cheerios, let me know.

  • On my last trip through Italy, I encountered bresaolo di cavallo. i love bresaolo, but had never encountered a horse version. I inquired where to get it and was sent to a butcher on the outskirts of Milan (the city I was passing through at the time). He had different cuts of horse meat – and that coveted brasaolo. What a treat. I love offal, and tend to always choose the strangest option available when dining… no cruel sister & Co. to speak of, though.

  • You are very brave….

  • David, this was a funny blog! You reminded me of the movie “The Squid and the Whale”. If I remember correctly, the kid there was traumatized by a picture in the museum of a giant squid entangling a whale. When he grew up he went back to the museum to “face his fear” because it seemed to be the root of some of his problems growing up. Now if I only know if that museum was real and where it’s located, I could then tell you and perhaps you might wanna consider going there. Hehe.

  • Btw, I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t like calamari.

  • Ummmm Horse milk gelato…..I’m waiting…*taps toes*

  • Why the long face? We travel 9 time zones to visit and what do we get? Horse milk. Our initial nays turned to neighs, though, and we tried it. As David says, it wasn’t so bad. A little chalky. A little hazelnutty.

    David, you more than made up for the horse milk when you gave us a taste of your perfect new salted butter caramel ice cream. Smart move. Otherwise I’d be scheming to come up with a way to get you to eat squid without knowing it next time you visit the Bay Area.

  • How does one milk a horse ? There is another blog for you!

  • “I never understand why people feel they have to convince you to eat something you don’t want. What’s it to them?”

    No kidding. I mean, I’m a fairly adventurous eater, but I draw the line at things like balut (don’t click on that link if you’re easily grossed out!), which my cousin’s boyfriend was always trying to get me to sample when I lived in Hawaii. You could not PAY me enough.

    On the other hand, I’ll try most dairy products, regardless of animal of origin. And if you don’t tell me what certain organ meats are before I eat them, there’s a much greater chance I’ll just shovel ‘em in whilst being blissfully ignorant; duck gizzards on toast come to mind — they were really good….but if I’d known what they were beforehand, I would’ve balked.

    Squid, though? Meh. And eating it fried is like eating deep-fried rubberbands. Okay as a vehicle for sauce, I suppose, but otherwise…not so much.

  • hi David, can you believe that there are people who eat cockroach/es for the alleged medical benefits? (does it taste like chicken?). i haven’t tried and won’t even dare to…seriously, “some people from other cultures eat dogs and cats..” and that’s a sad truth, even in the PI. as if that’s not sad enough, news have it that even dolphins, sea turtles and other endangered animals are not spared from being eaten. groups against cruelty to animals, like PAWS & WWF, are doing their best to put an end to this scenario. but it’s still a long way to go…thanks for your blog, it’s a must-read.

  • Haha, I like your comment about eating dog. I’ll have to use that the next time I’m pressured to eat something I don’t like.

  • You can lead a man to a horse but you can’t make him drink!

  • Just try to be a vegetarian in Houston !

  • I was born in America but my parents are European and thus I grew up eating a lot of weird food (well, weird for Americans). Haggis, anyone? Try explaining tripe and head cheese to your 10-year-old friends. And oh, Spam! My mother grew up in London during WW2 and Spam on toast was yum yum.

    And still, I have to say, the thought of horse milk made me queasy to the point of skipping my lunch today. And I’m not easily queased out by food!!

  • Zonder, I’m not seeing why you think eating dogs, cats, dolphins and sea turtles is “sad”. Yes, it’s bad to eat endangered species NOW because…well, they’re endangered. But dogs? Cats? Is there a logical reason to not eat them? Some possible deadly disease to get from eating one? Does the meat just not taste good? The only thing stopping people is the “Cute, fluffy and domesticated” factor. I can see why PAWS and the WWF would try to stop people from eating endangered species (not just sea life, but monkeys and such), even if they’re the native food in their area, but I don’t see it as cruelty to animals. Puppy mills and houses were there are 22 cats- now that’s cruelty. There’s no reason to think of eating dogs and cats as sad and gross other than we’re trained and used to thinking of them as pets and a non-food source.
    {end soapbox}

    That said, it’d be interesting to try horse’s milk at some point. I’m always up for at least trying new foods (though I’m never eating chicken feet again).

  • Very, very funny. The customers in “Starbucks” were I was drinking a skim milk hot chocolate (yes, I know it’s plebian, but better than their coffee) looked at me like I’d lost my mind when I laughed out loud.

    If you ever want to face your fear of giant squids as Johnny suggested, theirs a very fine specimin at the Field Museum in Chicago. And while you’re in the Windy City you can eat another disgusting food, Chicago Style Hot Dogs. Does anyone really know what’s in those?

  • Dromeda: I saw a show on CNN International last year (CNN in the US is mostly focused on Brangelina and probably 24/7 with Don Imus’ stupid comments now) and they had a bunch of folks in China sitting around a cauldron eating, um…well, let me just say it was a Fancy Feast of something most of us normally see as domestic pets, not dinner. It was pretty icky. I can’t pin-point the reason it grossed me out. I’m not a vegetarian, but I did have quite a visceral response to it.

    (And why do they always run those stories on CNN here, when I’m having breakfast at 7 am? Seeing Larry Burkhead’s frighteningly-bad highlights at that hour is scary enough…)

    Chicken feet aren’t that off-putting to me. My Chinese friends in San Francisco laugh at me for not eating them so I make the effort to appease them. The horse milk though, I thought, might make me gag.
    But I drank it like a man. And so did Brett.
    (And Namita too…she was quite a trooper!)

  • I actually just made stuffed squid for dinner the other night (a la Russ Parsons), and while it was good, I couldn’t help thinking I’m really glad I don’t have to eat squid everyday.

    As for milk, camels milk is very good, and it is amazingly white. If you put it next to regular (cow) milk the cow milk looks yellow in comparison.

  • Wow, and I thought that drinking carabao’s (water buffalo’s) milk was the most exotic that it got.

  • I am often guilty of trying to convince people to eat things they would otherwise not and I will tell you why..I take great satisfaction in upsetting their pre-conceived notions of what is tasty and what is not. Twenty years ago in Paris, I served my French boyfriend a toothsome oxtail stew. He was enjoying it heartily when he stopped and said, “C’est delicieux…Qu’est-ce que c’est?

    When he heard the reply he immediately put his fork down and stopped eating…

    That being said, if I thought I was drinking cow’s milk and was then told it came from a horse..I might just feel compelled to set down my glass and ponder that for a minute.

  • A horse walked into a bar, the barman said “Why the long face?”

  • Ho ho I’m learning something, we do have horse milk at le Bon Marché, my gosh !!!
    I’am not surprised with this, le Bon Marché is doing “n’importe quoi” to be trendy and more and more expansive, no no what’s surprising me, it’s that you, David our American in Paris are talking about this :-))and not a frenchy guy, shame on us :-)))
    My best regards

    Jane (Paris Batignolles)

  • Since I don’t like milk at all on its own, one seems like another. I might quail at say whale milk. If you make it into cheese, you have my attention!

  • The way David Described it I thought it might make a nice creme anglaise.

  • Like Connie wondered, How does one milk a horse ? Ok, my imagination isn’t that bad, but still … It’s a somewhat funny picture in that process.

    But back to weird foods. I’m from Sweden so I’ll say mountains of herring — herring in all shapes and flavors. Fermented herring, anyone? It is interesting, though, how much meaning we put into what we eat, what we can eat and what we can’t. As long as you don’t die from it I think it’s worth trying. Don’t have me eat oysters, though … Tried it and don’t want to do it again.

  • david, actually, donkey’s milk is the closest substitute to breast milk. the one i tried was from hungary, iirc. donkey meat salami(very different) and donkey’s milk. i find out later that donkey milk used to be a very common substitute for breast milk in india. these days, it is not that commonly available except if you make a ‘special request’ to those who keep donkeys. these are usually the guys who have been clothes laundrers for generations.

  • David, I’m sorry I traumatized you for life over the “Marine World Brochure Incident”.
    xoxo, your sister

  • Don’t worry, David, soon there will be no more American horse meat exported to Europe. Our federal and state legislators are systematically putting up block walls to this nonsense. Three of the four working horse slaughterhouses here in the US have been recently shut down due to law changes. Perhaps our enlightened neighbors to the north and south will take up where we left off but soon we will not be party to the horsemeat for human consumption trade.

    We Americans don’t “farm” horses to sell them for meat. We breed them to ride, drive, show, and work. Those that are shipped overseas are the old, infirm, injured, and come from racing, farms, ranches, etc. The only reason this is a “delicacy” over there is because it’s very cheap to source it in the US (40 cents a pound) and then make a killing on the markup.

    I hate to be snotty but the Europeans are being taken for a ride on the pricing and marketing of this disgusting food. And they’re not very smart either when choosing to ingest meat that comes from animals which throughout their lives are routinely and continuously medicated with strong pesticides, worming medications and very likely also with other meds to deal with infirmities and injuries suffered in the last months/years before going off to slaughter.

    I am a horse owner and well versed in the horse sports industries, and with that insight, I would NEVER EVER eat horse meat. Why would I want to with the plethora of toxic substances that are likely to be in that meat? Horses are sprayed with toxic fly spray daily or they live in barns that have automatic chemical sprayers to keep a cloud of fly spray misting every hour 24/7. Every fly spray, worming medication and other medication I’ve ever administered to a horse states plainly on the label: NOT TO BE USED FOR ANIMALS INTENDED FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION. Actually the US is doing Europeans a big favor by stopping the disgusting flow of horsemeat to their countries – if they don’t have enough commonsense not to eat tainted food, well, we can at least quit sending it to them!

    If they want horsemeat so badly, they should raise their own, just like they do cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, etc. Hate to be the voice of reality but “there is no free lunch” and “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” and “just because you close your eyes doesn’t mean that all the bad stuff goes away”…..

    Don’t eat horsemeat, David. Not a good idea at all… and I haven’t even addressed the psycho-social reasons why one should not eat the animal who all through history until the automobile was created was man’s vital partner to explore new lands, transporting him and his goods, working the fields and woods for him, carrying him to plentiful hunting grounds and fertile farming lands …. that’s a whole other aspect but personally I think the toxic chemicals should be more than enough to dissuade rational people from partaking.

  • Squid milk, anyone?

  • I wish I was in your circle, I’d try it.

  • Another interesting column, David. I had no idea horses were “milked” for retail sale.

  • I missed this post the first time around, but just had to comment now because,

    1. I can’t believe you bought the horse milk! I remember seeing it at Le Grand Epicerie when I lived in Paris, but never actually saw anyone buy it (not for lack of surreptitious surveillance of the milk case). Impressed. As a horse lover I actually wouldn’t have any problem trying horse milk on principle, it’s more imagining the conditions in which it commercially is produced that would give me pause.

    2. You milk a horse just like you milk any other animal… Squeeze, squirt, squeeze, squirt. (TMI?)

    3. I always assumed that lait de jument comes from the same horses they breed for meat (and, though most horse meat in France does come from the US, they actually still breed and slaughter some horses in France specifically for meat – I saw a heard of them when I was down near the Pyrenees. They looked a lot like the little guy in these posters http://www.jenemangepasdecheval.com/tract1.html, which were all over Paris last winter. Also, a lot like the silhouette on the milk bottle.) But, at least at the site you linked to, they’re actually using Merens horses, which are a native – and rare – French breed mostly used for riding and driving. Interesting! That, possibly naively, made me feel better about the whole thing.