There is a popular sausage found in the French corners of Louisiana called andouille. It’s spiced pork and uses a large portion of the digestive system–lots of stomach and intestine. It’s quite tasty, though, and many meat dishes are nothing if not horrifying when broken down into its components. (See also: haggis.) There is another type of sausage commonly found in France that is another kettle of…well, intestine; this sausage is called “andouillette” and is a sight and taste to behold. If you are not keen on very strong dishes with a distinct…biological smell, don’t confuse the two. Not ever.
While in Avignon, we went to a highly rated hole in the wall called L’Epice and Love (call for reservations, unless you want to eat on a couch in the “salon” area–accommodations that we found to be far more pleasant than a table).
The lighting and music were pleasant; the owner incredibly friendly and hospitable–even comping our toddler’s meal just for the hell of it! “Such a small plate, why bother charging?” We left a generous tip, obviously. I happened to make the French sausage rookie mistake: I thought I was ordering andouille. I had not. I had ordered andouillette in a thick sauce with mushrooms. Now, I love traveling with my husband, but sometimes he fails to save me from myself. I noticed his grimacing afterward and asked why. “You know you just ordered a big chewy colon stuffed with coarsely chopped offal, right?”
Uh…no. No, I did not know that. Part of the beauty of most sausage is that you can kind of pretend that you don’t know that it’s full of parts of the animal you’d rather not consider. Not so with andouillette: there’s absolutely no mistaking those parts and pieces. And I’ll tell you why. Quite frankly…a properly done andouillette smells of poo. Not too strongly, but it’s there. It’s undeniable and in-your-face. Luckily, I had just read Kitchen Confidential and I let Anthony Bourdain be my spirit guide: WWABD? Tony would eat it and order seconds if it was good, and wash it down with a fantastic wine. And so that’s what I did. I ate the stinky poo sausage, which fell into giant lumpy chunks in my mouth and swam in the sauce on my plate.
Friends, I am here to tell you that it was amazing. The smell and the texture I described all worked together with the rich sauce, the salty bite of the meat and pungent spices, and yes, it did smell. I got more thick chunks of baguette and scooped up whatever fell off my fork. It was incredible, so earthy and well, just French. It was so good that our daughter tried it, and if you think I haven’t been bragging about my three-year-old eating big chunks of intestine then you don’t know me at all.
Sausage is really a baby step. Roasted grasshoppers, brains fresh from a recently killed monkey, fermented shark…all those make for better bragging rights. But you know, it’s a step. And I’m pretty proud of myself. It’s not every day when you can say “Haggis? Psh. You should go to France for the andouillette…”
Have you tried anything in your travels that would otherwise have scared you? What was it?