We returned from our Paris/Berlin trip last night (it was fab, thanks for asking) and I have to report on the run-in we had with a little bit of nasty food while abroad. I had recently written about how I was diligently researching German sausages, to make sure we avoided the "brain-wurst" or whatever macabre pig-bits might pass for "food" there, but it did not occur to me that France also suffers from bad judgment in the "what is acceptable to ingest" department. Here's the deal:
After a busy day of sightseeing, it was approaching the late-lunch hour and we were starving. So hungry we could "eat a horse"? Not exactly. I would rather have eaten a horse than what we did end up eating. We found a darling, bustling bistro- I mean really, damn cute, and Art Nouveau, to boot. We scoured the menu (written only in French). I was apprehensive and told John, "I'm not picky but I'm also starving, and I just don't want a plate full of stomach sausage or something completely inedible." John, in his unfailingly positive and generous manner, responded (words to the effect of): "We are going to order the best we can and we are going to eat what we get. If you don't like yours, you can share mine."
John ordered for us (in French, since there was definitely NO English spoken at this joint) something called "Andouillette AAAAA." With all those "A"s after it, it had to be extra good, right? And the word sounded familiar to John, like something he had eaten before with his French buddies in LA. He thought it was going to be (at least the "first cousin of") "andouille" - the spicy sausage found in gumbo and jambalaya.
Long story short: A plate of "Andouilllette AAAAA" plopped in front of me and I cut into the sausage casing. What happened next should never happen to anyone, ever: the sausage innards literally flopped out! And they were not normal sausage innards, either: they looked more like a rubbery seafood substance, not finely chopped meat normally found in sausage. No, my friend, this was not striated muscle tissue. This was smooth muscle. Parts of an animal that this city girl could definitely not identify by appearance, much less by taste.
The taste? Well, let's just say the smell was very strong, and the taste was- for better or worse (WORSE) - the strongest I've ever tasted. It was like chewing on rubbery . . . poop. There, I said it. Turns out, this was the dreaded "stomach sausage" of my pre-trip nightmares, right there in a steaming pile in front of me, next to some superb pommes frites and a lovely salad.
I ate about 40% of it before my gag reflex really starting building up, so I passed it off to John to take it for the home stretch. I'm glad I went first, because watching him choke down that chewy nastiness, and personally knowing how gnarly it was, made my stomach ache even more.
Given that we had a belly full of it, we didn't really want to talk about it too much, but we pretty much convinced ourselves that we had just eaten "snout" or "ears" - something non-traditional yet not emetic. We joked that the "AAAAA" meant "extra snouty." Turns out that Andouillette (I still don't know the meaning of the "AAAAA") is made from the worst possible stuff: pig or cow stomach and colon, which may or may not still include the above-referenced POOP. Not joking. Take a read of the Wikipedia entry for our beloved "Andouillette" and count how many times the word "feces" is used in the short, descriptive paragraph there. Yup, count 'em FIVE "feces" references.
Elsewhere on the web, I found a few other blog posts about people's personal experiences with the stuff. One website understated andouillette as "definitely not a party pleaser" and another chef said that, in 40 years of trying, he's only been able to convert 2 people to the unique taste . . . of poop.
Andouillette is a real delicacy in a certain region of France; it's what French farm people eat because its made from the stuff that they can't sell to discriminating buyers like you and me. You know, people who prefer not to dine on pig sphincters. As my mom says, farmers (around the world) eat "everything but the oink" and it seems that France is no exception.
p.s. John later realized that he actually HAD eaten this poop sausage before - in Los Angeles with a bunch of Frenchies, one of whom had smuggled some andouillette back (stuffed in his socks, where the taste undoubtedly mellowed). The stuff was practically rotten by the time the group huddled around the skillet and- snickering as if on a dare- watched it turn from gray/green back to the color of . . . poop. Rest assured, there is not enough butter on this planet to make it tasty.