Chitterling Sausage / Andouillette: Very funny France, now help me erase my memory
Remember a few posts back when I described our first meal in France? Well, I was trying to be nice about it and not sound disrespectful of French cuisine. Remember the Chitterling Sausage? I just found out what it is. Please allow me to be honest about the experience.
It was described as “Chitterling sausage with two kinds of potatoes”. Bangers and mash, right? Don’t Europeans have nice, fancy sausages? To the waiter’s credit, he tried to warn us. When Charlie ordered this “French delicacy” (read “abomination”), the waiter made some discouraging remarks in French. He motioned to his stomach in a swirling motion and drew parallel lines across his stomach with his thumb and index finger.
“Does he mean that it is a big portion?” asked Charlie? I shrugged, “I think he means it is made of pork belly.” The waiter motioned to me as if he thought I should be the one ordering the dish, not Charlotte.
“No thanks, it will be fine, we’ll have the Chitterling Sausage and the Confit de Canard (duck confit).”
It arrived. It didn’t look great, but it wasn’t enough to be put off. We got stuck into our meals and Charlotte tried a bite. The outer casing of the sausage was pretty rubbery and took some sawing to get through. The inside of the sausage was odd looking lumps. It didn’t look like your average sausage mince; it was too chunky and didn’t really stick together. Then it hit us.
It didn’t smell good. I mean it smelled terrible. When I say “terrible”, I’m not referring to any kind of “terrible” that food should ever smell like. I’ve known some unpleasant smelling dished in my time, but they were all clearly food aromas, albeit unappetizing. This was in a different league. This was the kind of terrible that would embarrass you if your bathroom smelled that way. Yes, it smelled evil. A kind of evil that took us a while to put our finger on. In the meantime (unfortunately in hindsight), Charlotte took another few apprehensive bites.
“It stinks!” Charlotte commented, “What is that?”. She holds the fork in front of her face. “It smells like B.O. No… It actually smells like poop! It’s horrible!”
And so it did. Being a good husband, and conscious no to be culturally insensitive, I told her to hide the taste in the potatoes. But no, it was an aroma of distasteful bodily functions that no amount of mashed potato or mustard could conceal. I tried a bit to see what she was complaining about. It tasted … it was hard put a finger on it … fecal.
My duck was delicious, but the waft across the table was … concerning. Needless to say, the Chitterling sausage went unfinished. As soon as the duck was finished we decided we needed to get away from the table. The smell was too much.
We walked home laughing to ourselves that we had accidentally ordered something that looked, smelled and tasted so bad. Was this a joke by the waiter? What on earth was this “Chitterling Sausage”? We vowed to look it up.
Two weeks later, the holiday is at an end, but I finally got a chance to look up what “Chitterling Sausage” is. For your reading pleasure, I will enlighten you.
Let us start with the “Chitterling” part, as I’m sure you are familiar with sausages. According to Wikipedia, the “1743 English cookery book The Lady’s Companion: or, An Infallible Guide to the Fair Sex contained a recipe for ‘Calf’s Chitterlings’, [referring to] intestine[s].” Today, chitterling generally refers to pig intestines, both the large and small. No problem there – most sausages use intestine as the wrapper. So what, then, is special about these sausages.
Well, as it turns out, Chitterling sausage is a French creation, otherwise known as Andouillette. Here is a somewhat biased description (original author’s emphasis):
The traditional Troyes andouillette is made out from quality pork products - large intestines and stomachs – attentively selected. The original recipe dates back to the Middle Ages according to the Champagne legends.
The delightful – and distinctive! – taste of the andouillette results from cutting the chitterlings lenghtwise first, and seasoning these thin stripes with onions, herbs, salt and black pepper.
The next step is to wrap the mixture with pork bowels and slowly cook these typical French sausages in a court-bouillon stock for 5 hours.
So this guy loves it, but what he is saying is that you are eating intestine wrapped in pork bowels. Bowels. Not intestines. Bowels. We’re talking colon here.
A Wikipedia author (edited since, but captured in all it’s glory here) gives a description that better reflects our experience:
French andouillette, on the other hand, is an acquired taste and can be an interesting challenge even for adventurous eaters who don’t object to the taste or aroma of feces. It is sometimes eaten cold, as in picnic baskets. Served cold and sliced thinly, the smell, taste, and texture may be mistaken for an andouille [a milder, less stinky sausage], but on closer inspection the texture is considerably more rubbery and the meat has a more feces-like flavor. By contrast, many French eateries serve andouillette as a hot dish, and foreigners have been repulsed by the aroma, to the point where they find it inedible (see external links). While hot andouillette smells of feces, food safety requires that all such matter is removed from the meat before cooking. Feces-like aroma can be attributed to the common use of the pig’s colon (chitterlings) in this sausage, and stems from the same compounds that give feces some of its odors.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we ate pig’s poo-chute sausage!
Now, I ask of you two things.
- Please go back and read my account of the meal. With your new found knowledge, you will see the train wreck as it occurs.
- Please, please, please read the comments on the site that I found the description on. While reading the comments, please imagine our unsuspecting faces as we taste and re-taste the sausage to try and pinpoint that oddly familiar taste and aroma.