Culinary Adventure Fulfilling

I found this old column from 7/1/97… it’s about an eating adventure during one of our French bike trips, so here you go…

FRANCE – You have to admire the French.

Well, you don’t have to, but I do.

After all, you gotta love a country with the stomach to eat every part of anything and everything that grazes, flies, swims and crawls across the road, leaving a slime trail in its wake.

So, what the heck: When in France, eat like the French.

With this in mind, I ordered escargot (snails!) while we were in Paris.

They were OK.

And no, they don’t taste like chicken. You’re thinking of frog legs, which I’ve also eaten, and do taste like chicken.

As for the escargot/snails…

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“Of course they taste good,” said Susan, who refused to try an escargot after I painstakingly removed one for her from its home, I mean shell, with the help of all sorts of special forks, clamps and vices.

“They’re swimming in garlic and butter,” she continued. “You could eat a rock if you dipped it in enough garlic and butter.”

She had a point.

In the Dordogne region, where we’re biking, we tasted many of the local specialties, all of which seem to revolve around ducks and geese. The most famous is foie gras, which is a pate made from the liver of a goose or a duck.

Not content to work with normal-sized livers, the French have devised an ingenious – and rather cruel – method of enlarging the livers of unsuspecting fowl. They stick a funnel down their throats and force feed them a mushy corn mixture until they’re ready to burst. The result is gigantic livers that can weight more than three pounds. And some very uncomfortable geese.

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I had to try the foie d’oie (goose liver pate).

It was rich, very rich.

And, by rich, I mean it cost a fortune. It was also incredibly rich in artery-clogging fat and cholesterol. 

According to French law, there was an ambulance and team of emergency medical technicians standing by, outside the restaurant, ready to restart the hearts not strong or healthy enough for the foie d’oie. While we dined, only two people required medical assistance and a jolt from the electric paddles.

After our foie d’oie appetizer, we decided once was enough. Our hearts and wallets – not to mention our consciences – couldn’t take it any more. Those poor, poor geese.

A few days later, I had a salade cou d’oie. Turns out this is a goose-neck salad.

Yuck!

Actually, the cou d’oie was OK after I got over the fact that I was eating little slivers of meat from the neck of a goose (or was it from several geese?), on a bed of lettuce with a light vinaigrette. 

These culinary adventures remined me of my worst-ever meal in France. It was several years ago, before I met Susan, and I was biking and dining alone in the Loire. I didn’t think the server spoke English, so I went for it and ordered one of the specials: tete de veau.

Veau is veal, so I figured this was some sort of veal dish. And, it was a special. It had to be good, right?

What arrived on the table a few minutes later didn’t look like veal. It was lumpy and bumpy, slimy and bony … and came in a white, kind of creamy sauce. I warily nibbled on some of the crunchy pieces and some gooey pieces, but mostly wound up eating a lot of bread and drinking a lot of wine and water. 

“You did not like it?” the server asked when she eventually cleared my mostly-full plate.

“You speak English?”

“A little.”

“What was that?”

“The brain of a small calf. It is a delicacy.”

“Oh,” I said, too stunned to say anything else. 

When I told Susan this story, while we dined on our goose neck salads, she laughed and said: “If they would have served it swimming in garlic and butter, you would have loved it.”

She had a point.

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