Monday, 18 April 2011

How to Cook a Poo Sausage

Yesterday I was 100% Englishman. Today a tiny part of me is French. I ate an andouillette and I survived!

So far I've been in France for five days. She has treated me kindly. The weather has been great, the roads have been quiet and the people have been as friendly as it's possible to be. This is not the place The Sun would have us believe it is. It's a land full of smiles and bonjours.

Yesterday I arrived in Quessigny. You won't have heard of it because less than a hundred people live here. It doesn't even have a shop. But here in this village is my cousin Sarah who, until yesterday, I hadn't seen since the early 1990s. And she lives in a fantastic house with French husband Cyril, who loves to cook, two lovely children, a couple of fluffy cats and a guest bed that soothed away the pains in my legs and derriere. And it was Cyril who prepared the andouillette.

If you've been following this blog you'll know that I'm hunting out something I've never eaten before in each country I visit. Andouillette had an automatic attraction because all reports I'd heard told of its horror. Y'see, andouillette is a tripe sausage stuffed with intensines. Or is it the other way around? I'm not sure it matters.

The meal itself was a lesson in French butchery. Before I was allowed to sample the legendary andouillette I had to try out andouille de Vire, a cold aperitif snack consisting of concentric tripe and fat circles. At first, like the eels the other day, it tastes quite bland but after a piece or six, there's a not unpleasant subtle meatiness. I don't think you'll be finding it in Tesco's any time soon but it went very well with the dark beer I was drinking. But this is only a distant cousin of the real andouillette that I'd heard talk of, the Peter Sutcliffe of pork surprises.

Andouille - it also means 'idiot' in French

So here it was in front of me. The main course. Two enormous, misshapen appendages in a creamy mustard sauce served with fried potatoes and salad. The andouillettes had been frazzed on the barbecue, giving them a smokiness cunningly disguising their usual scent. It's been said that they give off an air of urine and faeces and while that might be pushing it a bit, there was certainly something wrong in their odour. We've evolved to avoid bad meat instinctively and yet here came the first bite. Thanks to the charcoal grilling, the first sensation is that of your normal, crispy, non-entirely-offal-based sausage and the consistency is chewy and coarsely textured. But then there's an unpleasant bit. As you chew it - and you have to chew it - a hint of the slaughterhouse sewer wafts up and attacks the back of the nose. Thankfully, Cyril knows what he's doing, and the mustard sauce almost entirely masked the poo sensation, making it an interesting experience, if not one I ever want to repeat. But if Cyril can weave an almost entirely enjoyable episode from the evil andouillette, just think what he could do with a chicken.

Andouillette - the devil's own penis

You'd think that with all this eating, and the daily Snickers bars and litres of fizzy orange pop I've been guzzling, I'd be piling on the pounds. But yesterday I weighed myself for the first time since setting off and, in eighteen days, I've lost eight kilos. At this rate, I will be completely weightless by the time I reach my astronomy residential in Majorca in September. I won't even need a telescope. I'll just be able to float up and look at the stars without the atmosphere getting in the way.

Tomorrow I leave here and head towards Paris. I should arrive there on the 20th. The route map into the city is terrifying, looking not dissimilar to my old grandma's varicosed legs, only more infected. I've given myself a full day there to explore, but one thing I definitely won't be doing is hunting out restaurants serving andouillette.

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