Saturday, 29 December 2007

Headless beast

In France, one of the many shocking things for most Americans is going to the butcher and having the head, feathers, feet, etc cut off in front of you. The same thing happens at the supermarket when you buy fish - they chop off the head and scale the fish right before your very eyes.

My first fight with Jerome was about just this- I couldn't bare to buy fish with a head and cook it. I cried in front of the fishmonger. And he still married me...Jerome not the fishmonger.

I've gotten less scared of seeing my meal's head in the refrigerator case as the years go by. I once read that Americans like their meat to be anonymous, not to be reminded that it was once alive and to be as sterile looking as possible because it gives us the sense that it's clean and disease free. While in other countries, people like to see that the meat/fish/poultry was once alive because, if the feathers are still colorful and the eyes are still shining, they know it's Fresh. Come to think of it, I think it was from Fastfood Nation which also turned me off of fast food for life. But that's beside the point.

A couple years ago when I went to pick up my Thanksgiving turkey and the butcher came out wearing the turkey feathers as a headdress, I was a little fazed. But now, with Christmas here and our local volailler (chicken butcher) - and here's a plug for Poulet des Flandres at 34 rue Arago in Lille and the divine free range roast chickens, chicken sausages and white pudding with apples and foie gras! - has his windows full of various feathered beasts with colorful shiny feathers and large hooks through their yellow beaks, I actually find it quite beautiful. It's not to say I'd actually buy a beast with feathers and a head on it and bring it home to cook. I mean, I bought fresh fish last week and had a minor panic attack when I had to clean the inside of its headless, scaly body. I couldn't even touch it without quivering the way one does upon seeing their goldfish belly up in its bowl.

But I will admit that I find it reassuring that my meat has had a life prior to being sealed in saran wrap and placed in the refrigerator case of my local A&P. And I find the pheasants particularly beautiful, especially when I buy them deboned, cleaned and stuffed with nut and prune stuffing. Divine.

1 comment:

Elisabeth said...

Yeah for rindless camembert! But Montbriac remains my favorite French cheese, along with Roquefort.

My parents once owned a shop where they sold poultry, and I was an expert at gutting a chicken. It's a skill that has come in handy a couple of times in my life. Pheasant is a delicious bird!

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