Saturday, July 31, 2010

Green Eggs and Ham? Oui.
Canard? Non!

As I mentioned, my Big Sis, her partner, and a smattering of Texas gay boys, lesbos, and I are going to Paris in a few months.
Our father was a life-long vegetarian, so Big Sis and I grew up with his oft-encouraged aversion to all but the most common of meats.
We ate beef, pork, turkey and a little bit of fish as kids, but my sister saw some goddamn chicken report on "60 Minutes" back in 1968 or something and hasn't touched chicken since.
I like chicken. It's a very versatile protein and I have lots of great chicken recipes. If my sis would start eating chicken again, it would solve a lot of culinary restrictions when I cook for my family.
It's not like I'd expect her to eat wings or thighs, for God's sake.
Both my sister and I are frightened to death that our lack of French speaking skills will cause us to inadvertently order duck, pigeon, innards, frog legs, escargot, or anything with liver in it, including foie gras.
Recently, I read an article about some Parisian chefs buying bush-meat from Africa and serving it in their fancy-pants restaurants at a very expensive price.
Bush-meat might include monkey, monkey brains, zebra legs, elephant dicks, gazelle gizzards and other exotic meats too horrid to contemplate. Some of it is basically road kill, but everyone knows Parisian chefs can cover cat crap with a sauce so delicious, it'll render the droppings tres magnifique.
Stupidly, I e-mailed the article to my sister, whose already red-lining gross-foods-in-Paris-paranoia spun into overdrive after she read the article.
She got so wigged out, she made her partner install an app on her iTouch that asks French waiters, "Does this have chicken in it?" and "Are any vital organs used in this dish?" "This isn't rabbit, is it?"
The voice it uses has a really terrible American-French robot accent, too, so I'm sure the snooty French waiters will spit in our boeuf and put boogers in our mousse du chocolat when we aren't looking.

I love to over-research places I've never visited before for months before I go there.
As such, I have read the menus of tens of dozens of classic French restaurants, and I mistakenly had thought their amazing sauces were what made French dishes world renown.
Turns out they all serve basically the same stuff--escargot, frogs legs, pigeon, pate de goose or duck liver, assorted offal, wild game and fowl, and maybe one beef, one chicken and one fish dish.
That means Big Sis will have to subsist on ham and cheese sandwiches, beef, and maybe a dab of fish- but no scallops, crab or pretty near any fish but salmon and tuna.
Even some beef dishes are disqualified because the sauce is made with bone marrow, foie gras, pig ear consomme, or some damn thing.
My Sharona was not reared by a queasy vegetarian daddy, so she's planning to wolf down pretty much everything but the bush-meat. That means anything sis or I find even slightly questionable will end up on Sharona's plate. And she will like that.
But I'm not too worried about starving.
As long as there are pastry, chocolate and bread shops on every corner, I think I could easily subsist on bread, butter, candy, fruit tarts, more chocolate things, custards and foofy pastel things filled with glistening sugar, caramel and other goop. Not to mention wine.
About four months before our departure date, I announced with great certainty my intentions to eat almost anything they served, because I knew it would all be excellent. Pate? Sure! Escargot? Absolutely! Duck? Why not?
But I lied.
When a good Parisian lesbian friend of mine told me via e-mail that she'd cook me dinner at her flat, I exclaimed, "Oh my God, the thought of a Parisian lesbian cooking dinner for me is almost too wonderful to contemplate!"
Alas, I think I spoiled it when I sent an e-mail reply and asked her what she'd make.
"But of course, I would make for you zee deesh I like zee best!" she replied.
"And what is that?" I replied, foolishly.
"Canard a la (something I forget)."
I immediately raced to Babel Fish translator and typed in, "canard."
It was duck. Oh no!
Without carefully considering the French sense of pride and culinary tradition, not to mention their widespread dislike for boorish Americans who need a good slap in zee face, I replied, "Oh no, I don't eat duck or other cute animals. Unless they moo, cluck, oink or gobble, I don't eat them."
No reply.
No further mention of the French girl cooking me dinner, either.
The one bright spot in my callous reply?
I won't be sitting around after dinner with duck stuck in my teeth.


Lisa said...

Jeez, I laughed my ass off here. Always a pleasant experience.

I lived France for a little over 8 weeks. The first week in Dijon, another student and I went for lunch at a lunch counter thing in a department store. We decided to throw caution to the wind and ordered Andouille sausage with I don't remember what.

After taking one bite of the foul smelling stuff, I turned to her and asked "Do you remember that M*A*S*H episode where Hawkeye says something like if you took an egg, put it in an old shoe and buried it under a chicken coop..."

"Just stop." She couldn't take it either.

I lived on pommes frites (french fries), a hamburger steak, salads and ice cream at a cafeteria called Flunch, pastries that I would still kill for, bread and paella and other assorted Moroccan food that I helped prepare and shopped for so I knew what went into them.

And lots and lots of tea biscuits covered in jam.

Have fun in France! I wish I could go, too!

Karen Zipdrive said...

Andoille? What, were they out of pig's blood?

McGriddle Pants said...

I would just advise you (or your sister) to look up words of foods that YOU DO want to eat, and then you can look for that on menus. And the french do eat lots of salads. And CHEEEEESE (she's not vegan is she?) and wine! What else do you need?! Nada!! :)

Have fun!

Iain said...

I lived there for a year as a student and can't remember eating much of anything after lots of warm, soft, delicious bread baked in the quaintest boulangerie. Not very balanced or interesting but completely delicious.

nonnie9999 said...

i've never been to france, but i did go to a fancy french restaurant once. my date encouraged me to be adventurous, so i tasted snails (blehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!) and had to spit it out. it's like eating dirt. then i tried a bite of his rabbit (blehhhhhhhhhhh!!!). had to spit that out, too.

p.s. for future reference, is smattering the correct collective noun for gays and lesbians?

Karen Zipdrive said...

I have tasted escargot and rabbit and neither tasted bad, it was just impossible for me to get past the idea that I had bugs and bunny in my mouth.
Smattering is fine--it beats a gaggle of gays or a litter of lesbians...

bigsis said...

I don't eat chicken because I had a pet chicken when I was a child and I came home from school to find our beloved grandmother plucking it for dinner in our kitchen sink. Imagine coming home to your pet being skinned in hot water in the kitchen sink. End of story.

I love bread, cheese, ham, kir royales, all desserts and the steak and frites will keep me very happy. I don't care what's in a sauce as long as it tastes good and I'm not told the ingredients.

KarenZipdrive said...

Grandma killed your pet chicken?
God I'm glad I wasn't born yet.
And why didn't mom and dad get you a little dog or a kitty instead of a chicken?
You know, now that I think of it, I had a cute magenta Easter chick before I ever had a dog or cat. Poor little thing, he committed suicide when he jumped into the toilet while we were all taking naps.

Lulu Maude said...

Croques monsieur are yummy!

Relax and take a few chances. Don't obsess on what you usually do... you're going a long way from home to box yourselves in with what you usually do.

I don't remember eating duck in France (t'was in the 80s), but enjoy the French appreciation of good vegetables. Outside the city everybody has little back gardens with really good stuff.

I love that the French close up at noon for three hours... go home, live a life, then re-open...

bigsis said...

The duck thing could be the result of our father blasting gaping holes in the side of the garage with a shotgun when he came home and found pigeons eating our baby Easter duck food. We never saw the ducks again either.

Distributorcap said...

i had the worst meal ever in Paris - it really sucked. how did i pick a bad restauranct in Paris

but i got a great haircut there