“The Nasty Bits”

28 Feb

I guess I’ve already missed the end of pre-Lenten meat-eating by a week, but I thought, as my last day in Paris coincides with the last day of Apokries, I’d take the opportunity to volley a few more visual missiles at my Vegan-Anti-Offal enemies’ positions.

These are from my new favorite place in the city.  One very cool development in France lately has been the proliferation of almost Spanish-style tapas bars, where you can try lots of different dishes instead of having to sit through the traditional three-piece suite.  I hope that will always be available in all its ritualized confidence, but this meze phenomenon is a welcome break.  And except for the absence of ankle-deep garbage on the floor, this place is as chaotic as any place in Spain and makes me mindful of the French’s own anarchic impulses.  You only get half the things you ask for; you have to scream for them over a counter that’s packed three-people deep; the check is always wrong; people are eating out of your plates and vice-versa, but the flavors there are nothing short of miraculous.

My favorites:

kidneys

The kidneys in a quick onion and vinegar sautee

Boudin

Their boudin, (coagulated pig’s blood — just a reminder…) which they don’t put into a casing but make into a loaf, kind of like a Penn-Dutch scrapple if the analogy isn’t too weird, served with a very hot green pepper and roasted apples

IMG00408-20140227-1657

A soft-fried egg dish swimming in butter and buttery croutons that’s made with some mushroom that has all the foot-like smell of truffle but none of its subtlety; they wouldn’t tell me what it’s called: “Il n’y en a pas là-bas…”  (I think) “You don’t have them over there…” was all I managed to get from them, irrespective of where “over there” was.

Pig's ears

The pig’s ears, slimy and gummy on the outside with the cartilage-crunch core, sauteed in a Basque-like red pepper combo

butter

The most delicious cheesey, slightly sour butter on earth, always sitting on the counter sweating, with bits of other people’s food always stuck in it (“eeeeewww…” a definite “C” rating from Bloomberg) and served with bread that’s leagues beyond the Poilaine stuff that’s everywhere and is so not great that I’m beginning to think is a gigantic hoax.

Finally, the pig cheeks — yep, hog maw — (see: “Hog maw, cornbread and chitterlin” ) braised in lentils:

pig cheeks

…which really reminded me of how much great food, especially great French food is based on the slow, laborious breaking down of animal collagens, something I tried to capture in this second pic a little better (forgive the quality — yes, yes, I’ll buy an IPhone; click on these for a better view in the meantime); it’s the secret to the perfect texture of good mageiritsa too, though everyone thinks it’s the augolemono.

pig cheeks 2

Why such conspicuous animus to the anti-offalers?  επειδή μου σπαν’ τα νεύρα….  Because they irritate me.  And I wouldn’t be so irritated by just their bad taste and limited palates and squeamish, plasticked alienation from the realities and depth of good food, if they would just shut up about it: it’s what in one of this blog’s first posts — “Chitterlings…and mageiritsa” — (the Jadde started just before Easter 2011) I call their “anthropology tes poutsas” that drives me mad: the rationalization that poverty made people eat this food and that now we’re beyond that.  (See also:  “What I managed to put away in a day-and-a-half in Paris and some thoughts on the “crise;” or, “…the brevity of time and the immediacy of pleasure.” )  Believe me; none of the people who eat here are poor.  It’s not in an impoverished southern village: they don’t exist anymore, are either depopulated or bought up by ex-pat Brits; it’s not in a dying northern industrial city; it’s not in a destitute banlieue.  It’s dead in the center of chic-as-you-can-get St. Germain (there’s an argument to be made that this food’s appeal is about reverse snobbery — an argument I’ll listen to), right down the road from the Odeon and around the bend from the Luxembourg.  If you even hover around the edges of New York foodie-dom you’ve heard about this place, but, sorry, as a matter of blog policy, I don’t give out names.  You’ll have to dig up its delights yourself.

The rest of you can have the salmon.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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