When it comes to strange food preferences, I am probably a downright wuss. While I do enjoy a piece of fried blood sausage and can admit that as a child, one of my favorite treats was a steamy bowl of tripe soup, I still have a lot to discover.
I have great admiration for people who are fearless when it comes to food. In fact, it’s something I’m striving to become – a fearless omnivore.
I remember my late uncle telling us about how delicious bulls’ testicles and scrambled eggs were for breakfast. He talked about the dish with such joy and hated the fact that testicles weren’t as readily available then as they were while he was growing up. My father adores stewed tongue. It is the dish he requests on birthdays and on other special occasions. Tongue was as much a treat to him as a bottle of fine wine is to me. But oh that smell! Sour, pungent and thick enough to stick around the house long after the meal was cooked and eaten. Disgusting you say? What’s so disgusting about using up every last bit of the animals we slaughter for food?
Much to my joy, the French pretty much adhere to this principle. Just walk around a market in France or have a good look at the meat section at a supermarket and you’ll see what I mean. They’re not picky. Everything has a use and everything gets eaten. Take andouillettes, for example, a food that many non-French fear. Some, who have naively ordered andouillette at a restaurant, recall the traumatising experience of that first cut into what seemed to be a simple sausage. Not surprising, since the malodorous sausage’s main ingredient is chitterlings, or pork intestines. While it’s true that the smell of andouillettes isn’t exactly that of freshly-baked apple pie, (it’s often described as ‘very offensive’ and said to ‘genuinely stink of shit’) to many French, the andouillette is considered one of the most loved charcuteries. Authentic cuisine du terroir. And who are we to think we know better? What if we’re the ones missing out?
I can’t help but wonder why and when we all suddenly developed such picky eating habits. Why is one part of the animal better than the other or more acceptable to eat? Nobody blinks an eye when someone eats chicken breast, but oh boy if you happen to enjoy a soup made with its feet! And why do people who repulse at the horrors of foie gras still hop on over to their local supermarket to stock up on ridiculously cheap trays of mass-produced meat? Talk about horror!
Perhaps it’s time to rethink our eating habits. Eat meat? Go ‘head to tail’. I’m on a mission to become a totally liberated omnivore. I might just walk up to my butcher sometime in the near future and order a whole pig’s head. It’s never too late to try my hand at making fromage de tête– I hear it’s a lovely appetizer.