Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Le Boucher--A Post that Every Vegetarian Will Hate

I have many deep and profound thoughts going through my head, but I have been unable to put them into words. So instead of waxing poetic, I will take you along with me on a trip through the meat department of our favorite grocery store. Here I can find pretty much all the varieties of meat that are found in the States, plus a few extras.

Boeuf is beef. Not too shocking, unless of course one is ordering in a restaurant, where beef ordered bien cuit or "well done" will be served red in the middle. The French idea of "medium rare" is when the edges are still pink. And if you'd rather eat your beef completely raw, you can. Just order the steak tartare, and you will receive something that looks like a slab of uncooked hamburger meat--commonly served with a raw egg on top. Steak tartare is sold in the grocery store. It must be a very easy dish to prepare. I can imagine the instructions. 1. Open Package 2. Place meat on plate 3. Serve.

Cheval is a type of meat that I have never seen in an American grocery store, but apparently the cheval sold in this store was raised just north of the U.S., in Canada. It grieves me to tell you that cheval is horse. Our French teacher tells us that it is her favorite meat and that it is very tender and very flavorful. I cannot bring myself to try it. Not yet. Maybe someday it will just be served to me, and I will eat it in ignorance, and then I will make a sound judgement. For now, I can only picture Black Beauty when I stroll past the cheval section. Poor Black Beauty.

Porc is, of course, pork. The porc section in France is huge. They have all the chops and roasts that I am accustomed to seeing. However, while I have been a lifelong fan of ham, I had no idea how many varieties of ham existed until I went grocery shopping in France. They have two or thee aisles dedicated to hams and sausages. I have only begun to sample the options, and I have not found a loser yet. And no, I do not think of Porky Pig when shopping for pork. And even if I did, it would not keep me from buying pork.

I have eaten veau de lait, or veal, but I have never prepared it. I also do not think that I have seen it in American grocery stores. Here veal has an entire section, and there are even different cuts of veal, which I did not even know existed. Do you cook veal? How do you prepare it? I might be able to bring myself to eat itty bitty baby cows.

My sisters kids have been raising sheep for the fair during the past few summers. Due to an illness that prevented said kids from going to the fair this year, that family has been eating a great deal of lamb this fall. Lamb, or agneau, is a fairly common dish in France. I plan to buy some next week to make a Shepherd's Pie. I do like lamb, but I have to work really hard at NOT picturing cute fluffy critters in order to enjoy eating it.

Poulet is chicken. In France, there is chicken, and then there is Bresse chicken. According to Wikipedia: The birds are highly valued for their rich, gamey depth of flavour, yet with fine, tender flesh and delicious, clean-flowing fat. Roughly 1.2 million are raised annually, but such is the demand inside France that few birds make it out of the country. As a premium product, they sell at a premium price: Poulet de Bresse command around 15 euro ($21) per kilo at fine food markets. I love to roast a chicken, and will one day bite the bullet and spend the big bucks for a Bresse chicken, just to see if it is worth all the hype. I'll let you know what I discover

I have only eaten duck--canard--once, and that was when I was 17 years old and traveling in China with my parents. We had Peking Duck, and it was horribly oily and I did not care for it. I have heard, however, that in France duck is quite lovely. I will give it another shot in a restaurant someday. If I like it, I may attempt it at home. Do you like duck?

Last but not least, there is the lapin. Last week I asked a young French woman what her favorite traditional French food was and she answered in an instant: Lapin. I am absolutely certain that I have never seen this meat in an American grocery store or even at an American butcher's shop. I would try this before I would try cheval, but it does challenge my sensibilities a wee bit. After all, I did once have a pet lapin. Do you know what it is?

Not yet seen in the grocery store, but often seen on menus in French restaurants are snails (escargot) and frog legs (cuisses de grenouille).

So, what's for dinner?


  1. I can't believe how huge that boucher is! When I was young, Escargot was my special dinner preference. I LOVED it! They are so tender and bathed in garlic butter which is soaked up with French bread. Yum. We usually had steak to go with it. Mom had the full set-up (dish, tongs, tiny fork and shells). And duck is very good too.

  2. Lapin = rabbit...tastes like chicken? :)
    Kylan really enjoys duck. I've never made it though.