So while offal may gross a lot of people out, I think part of the reason for it is because so many offal dishes remind us just a bit too much of the fact that it came from an animal. Take tongue, for example. Tongue is delicious! It has an amazing texture and flavor, and many practical applications. But when you go to the store to buy it it looks like, well, a tongue. Shocking, I know. Yet we'll eat a pork chop till the cows, or should I say pigs, come home, because a pork chop doesn't look anything like Wilbur.
But truthfully, I think the French's ability to accept their place on the food chain is admirable. Especially since they accept it with respect for the animals they slaughter, cook, and slather in fabulous creamy sauces. Eating every part of the animal, from the nose to the tail, shows me that they value its life, and to top it off, it's tasty! Brains are wonderful. Bone marrow is heavenly. Liver? Oui, s'il vous plait!
These past few weeks I have had the joy of spending time with a fellow head to tail consumer. Elze's South African friend, Morne, is visiting, and seems to love all things weird and delicious just as much as I do. He particularly loves boudin noir (which you may know as black pudding, or blood sausage), which I have never had the pleasure of eating before. I've always wanted to, but in the states it isn't exactly on the menu at most places, and I've certainly never been invited to a dinner at my friend's house for their fabulous family recipe of boudin noir.
Morne was determined to eat some boudin noir while here, and when he suggested that I join him I was more than game. He investigated the internet thoroughly to see if he could find some restaurant in Paris that offered it but to no avail. It was cute to see how upset he was about the lack of boudin noir availability here. I thought only I got that emotionally attached to a planned meal. It's nice to be reminded, if only rarely, that there are other freaks out there who get just as excited over offal as I do. With his head hung, he resigned that there would be no boudin noir, and I thought I saw the faintest flicker of a tear in his eye. This was, without a doubt, a heart wrenching tragedy.
Lucky for us, our trusty friend Elze was quick on her feet and suggested that Morne just walk down to our corner boucherie and buy some boudin noir. Though she fights her love for offal with a fury, she has to admit that she does enjoy so many of the things that this subcategory of meat has to offer (with foie gras being one of her favorite things in the world). Morne perked up instantly, threw on his walking shoes, his winter coat, and skipped out the door to go and buy us some boudin noir.
He came back with a gigantic section of the stuff and I was surprised to see that it looked like any normal sausage. It was a bit maroon in color, but that was all. Morne caramelized some onions, crisped up some italian bacon, and sliced the boudin noir for the frying pan. In no time we were diving into this new discovery, and I was more than grateful to him for introducing me to this tantalizing treat.
After being cooked, it had turned a terrifying black color. It looked like little discs of charcoal, and though I was too polite to say it, I had feared that Morne had burned that which he had been so excited to eat and share. But because my mother taught me proper manners, I still took a small slice to taste without comment. It was light as air when I picked it up, feeling as if it was just a shell of carbon, but when I put it into my mouth I was delighted by the flavor and texture of this unknown entity. It hadn't been burned at all, it was just black, which is probably why it has "noir" in the title. I guess those French aren't always nonsensical and ridiculous.
The boudin noir was like something so familiar and yet something so new all at once. It had a wonderfully rich meat flavor to it, but the consistency was so delicate and almost bread like, that it melted in my mouth. The closest thing I could relate it to was juicy corn bread stuffing on Thanksgiving day, except this was more compact and to the point. It was inconceivable, and phenomenal.
While Morne and I enjoyed this wondrous treat, Elze sat and refused to try it. She was afraid she would like it, and she most certainly did not want to be the type of person who not only enjoyed foie gras, but who also delighted in eating blood sausage. She did not want the be the same type of freak that Morne and I happily embraced as part of who we were. But after much coaxing, she finally gave in and tried a slice, and even though she hated to admit it, and every fiber in her being was telling her that she should turn her nose up in disgust, she couldn't help but concede that the boudin noir was, undeniably, delicious.