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  • Writer's pictureCoco

Why eat the weird stuff anyway?

A lot of people, and most likely some of you, are wondering why the French eat frog legs, escargots, pigeons, quail and rabbit, the neck of the goose, the tongue of the cow, the liver of the chicken, and so many parts that make you cringe and gag?

Some years ago, I wrote a musical that featured a comical song on that particular topic, i.e. the weirdness of French food. Because the theme of the story, World War II, is quite somber, I added a few scenes and a couple of songs with a touch of humor to take the edge off the pain of that era.

For those who may ask whose voice is it? Not mine, although I wish it were!

“So much of this food is too strange for me

How hungry a man would you have to be

To see a small, sweet, slimy garden snail

And think, I’ll eat that (Yuck!) I’m going pale!


How hungry a man would you have to be

To see a flimsy, fragile, little frog

And think, How these legs look so good to me

Sauteed with butter, garlic, and parsley!


And who’s the strange man that squeezed on a fish

And thought, I will put these eggs in a dish

Or maybe instead put them in a jar

People will pay lots if it’s called caviar!”

Admittedly, what you call the “weird stuff” was no gourmet food in the Middle Ages.

Whatever people could catch was good enough to eat. They had to be very resourceful and could not afford to waste any part of any animal that they had slaughtered or bartered for labor, wheat, or buckwheat.

They had to find ways to season and cook the organs of the cow or the pig until only the bones remained.

Also, dental hygiene was very poor to non-existent. As they would lose teeth to decay, people could no longer chew on tough meat. The kidneys of the animal, the brain or the intestines were softer, easier to chew, not to mention that they were known to be rich in protein and antioxidants.

The evolution of French cuisine is very interesting and sometimes full of surprises – from traditional cuisine to nouvelle cuisine, to modern cuisine, to cuisine “gastronomique”, you see why and how foods and diets changed over the years and the centuries.

Did you know that escargots are actually low enough in fat that they are part of the Mediterranean diet? Yes, indeed; and they are full of antioxidants and anti-aging properties for your skin – Several big brands are now competing for those unexpected merits… I personally go for the Tahitian oil! The sacred beauty oil of the tiare (the Tahitian gardenia) sounds more attractive and fragrant to me than snail slime…

So, when you refer to French food as the “weird stuff”, it can be weird, but its roots are deep in the past and sometimes tangled with frugality, deprivation, and even famine and starvation. People in Europe had to eat the “weird stuff” not by choice but for survival. The “weird stuff” was not pretentious, gourmet food as some might think today… The difference between now and the past though is in the creativity. Some French chefs have turned the bare necessities of the past to creative, artistic, amazing contemporary preparations that can truly fool you. With their imagination and their “savoir-faire” (know-how), they have turned the “peasant food” into some sophisticated French country gourmet dishes.

Next time you see “rabbit with mustard and cream sauce” or “chicken liver paté with garlic reduction” on the menu, thank the chef for keeping the tradition going… a tribute to the oppressed, the poor, the peasants, those who grew the crops but were starving because the crops belonged to the aristocrats and royalty.

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