The other night I was standing on the métro and found myself face à face with a little affiche advising me, minding my own business as I rocketed below Paris, that it’s not alright to eat Mr. Ed. Then on Tuesday, I was taking a stroll through the thirteenth, on my way to have lunch with a friend in Chinatown, and came across a sign pleading a stop to the practice of le gavage, the forced stuffing of ducks and geese to make foie gras.
A lot of Americans think that all the French are unequivocally daring eaters, or aren’t picky, which is partially true: when you have a dinner party, you don’t have to worry about someone showing up who’s allergic to peanuts or dairy. Aside from a certain American who won’t eat squid, everyone around here eats almost anything, and just about everything might show up on a menu if you get invited to dinner. Except offal, which, in spite of the fact everyone thinks the French like to chow down on stomach lining, testicles, and kidneys, there’s plenty of them that turn up their noses at the idea of digging into a steaming dish of any of the above. btw: In case you invite me over for dinner, I’m with that camp.
It’s pretty interesting to see ads like these cropping up in France, imploring people not to eat certain foods. Americans might have a reputation for being unadventurous, but I couldn’t get anyone here to try horse milk, if you recall, so I had to recruit some brave Américains. Which makes me wonder if we Americans aren’t so lame after all.
There’s also of a bit of dubious discussions about how everyone here are either really careful or eat in moderation. Or that people are starving themselves to stay thin, or that the French eat anything—fries, crème brûlée, and triple-cream cheese with reckless abandon, yet stay remarkably thin, no matter what. I won’t make a million dollars writing a book that says au contraire, but like everyone else, the French come in all shapes and sizes, and are just like you and me. Well, except they speak French very well and somehow seem to know all those verbs.
Even the stinky ones. But one filled with foie gras somehow eluded temptation and when I wrote about it, a commenter remarked that I was a typical American who was part of the posse giving foie gras “bad press”. (Er, dude, I eat foie gras.)
Only because it’s part of the French culinary heritage and vocabulary, and since I’m trying to fit in, I once thought about trying horse meat, just to give it a go. That is, until one of my commenters who works with horses in North America (where the horse meat in France is imported from), warned me not to, saying the meat was pumped full of chemicals and other icky stuff because the animals weren’t being bred for consumption. Not that I needed much prodding, but I decided that I didn’t really need to try horse meat after all. But it was close there for a while, folks…whew!
Anyhow, tomorrow is Christmas in Paris and all the traditional foods will likely be coming out, and I’m hoping everything is not only politically-correct (only because my first French teacher asked me, “Why is everyone in California so politically-correct?”, so I have an image to maintain), but delicious. I’m planning on scarfing down plenty of fresh oysters (which are on the à privilégier, or ‘safe’ seafood list) with a sauce made of French-made vinegar and local shallots from my CSA pannier.
Scallops from Brittany have become de rigueur this year, as “le must” to eat around the holidays, so I’m hoping there’s some of them, too. And I’m making a Lemon Cake filled with lemon curd, with candied sour cherries from cherries I picked and preserved from last summer, and fresh ginger ice cream which I churned up with ultra-luxurious crème fraîche from Isigny.
I don’t know what else is on the menu, but I’m pretty sure there won’t be any horse meat. If there is, I’ll let someone else have my portion…because ’tis the season of sharing.
Happy holidays and joyeuses fêtes—whatever you’re eating!