Food

Top 5 Freaky French Foods We’re Still Scared To Eat

by Tory Hoen

Here at HiP Paris we’ve been bringing you fabulous content since 2008! We’ve decided to take a peek through the archives and revisit some of our most loved articles. We hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane as much as we did! This article was originally published on May 22, 2012 and written by the fabulous Tory Hoen. What’s the most freakish French delicacy you’ve tried? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

I consider myself an adventurous eater, and from an early age, I had a French-leaning palate. As soon as I learned to chew solid foods, I began inhaling Roquefort, paté, and on occasion, entire sticks of butter. But despite my penchant for richness, there are certain French foods that still scare the living daylights out of me. In some cases, it’s the result of a past trauma, and in others, it’s just an instinct that whispers in my ear, “Run far and fast away from this food.” These are the items on my Do-Not-Eat list:

Left: a photo of a corner terrace in Paris with red roofing and empty tables below. Right: a photo of the french dish boudin noir on a black plate with a salad
Top: @nicholasthomas
Left: @lefrancalexis / Right: Boudin noir, @lachaumierejoliette

Boudin noir

Boudin noir (a.k.a. blood sausage) is just that: a disturbingly purple sausage full of pork and pig’s blood. The name alone is enough to make any rational person run for the hills, but then of course, there’s the taste. Have you ever been on a car trip and passed through rural territory, only to have your air supply adulterated by the putrid smell of cow and pig manure? That’s pretty much what blood sausage tastes like, only more potent, because this time you’re not just smelling it, you’re eating it.

How do I know? I used to work for a French man who cooked lunch for our team every day. In general, these lunches provided me with the opportunity to happily eat like a real Parisian. On some days, we’d have tomato tartelettes followed by roast chicken and fiery mustard, salad, yogurt and fruit, chocolate, and to punctuate it all, a strong espresso.

But on one occasion, I sat down and was promptly served blood sausage. Still a newbie, I was excited to try a regional specialty, especially one that was served with yummy cooked apples. But after one excruciatingly nasty bite, boudin noir went on my list of foods not to be repeated. I haven’t felt the same about poor, innocent apples ever since.

Left: a photo of two pieces of the french dish andouillette sat on a wooden table. Right: a photo of two women enjoying a wine on a Paris terrace.
Left: andouillette, @charcuterie.sibilia / Right: @pariswithlanden

Andouillette

It comes as no surprise that andouillette (a corse-grained sausage made with pork intestines and other mysterious chunks) is a polarizing food. One portion of the population loves to complain about its nastiness, and the other portion licks its lips at the very mention of it. When I first heard the complaints of the former group, I used to think, “How bad could it really be?” Surely these weaklings were exaggerating. But recently, I had my first (and last) run-in with the dreaded thing.

I had taken off for a lovely weekend in Normandy, determined to eat “locally”: Calvados, caramel, apples, cider, Camembert… how can you go wrong? Well, here’s how. We were almost done with an incredible meal at Le P’tit Resto in Bayeux (which I highly recommend) when I opted for the cheese course: Pont-l’Évêque wrapped around a delicate slice of andouillette. After one bite, it was clear this was not going to happen. Trying to keep my gag reflex in check, I stealthily hid the remains of the offensive thing under the few salad leafs on my plate. I thought I had done a fairly convincing job, but when the waitress returned, she immediately recognized my trick and made a frowny face. I began to make excuses, and then suddenly realized, “Wait a minute. You just fed me intestinal chunks. Shame on you.” Then again, I just voluntarily ate them in the name of haute cuisine. Shame on me.

Left: a photo of steak tartare with an egg yolk in the middle, on a white plate being cut into by someone eating with a knife and a fork. Right: A photo of a gourmet steak tartare on a plate with egg yolk dripping off the top.
steak tartare
Left: @lateef.photography / Right: @lateef.photography

Steak Tartare

It’s time for a breather: steak tartare. This one isn’t so bad. When mixed with the right proportions of onions, raw egg, capers, mustard and Worcestershire sauce, it basically tastes like a raw hamburger. It’s just that I prefer my hamburgers cooked—go figure. I will eat occasional bites of tartare, but a whole plate? No thank you. It’s an issue of volume, I suppose. Everything in moderation, especially ground-up cow.

Left: A photo of a hand with a plactic glove holding a slice of the french dish fromage de tête in front of a stone wall. Right: a photo of fromage de tête in a dish, with one slice taken out and lying on the wooden table in front of a bowl of sauce.
fromage de tête
Left: @farcecharcuterie / Right: @romain.leboeuf

Fromage de Tête

And then there’s fromage de tête, or head cheese. Call me unsophisticated, but this name just does not appeal. It generally comes in a terrine and consists of “parts of a cow’s head” set in gelatin. The parts can vary, of course, and sometimes they’ll even throw in some tongue, feet, or heart. Bonus! I have yet to eat this delicacy, and I must admit, I’m in no hurry.

Left: a photo of the french dish oursin filled with vegetables and fish on a white plate. Right: a photo of the seine in Paris at sunset, where many people are walking along the river or dining on a terrace.
Left: Oursin, @lebistronomique / Right: @frnck_abr

Oursin

Oursin. Sea urchin. I realize a lot of people like these guys, but to me, they taste and feel like a salt-saturated sponge in my mouth. You’re more likely to encounter them in the south of France, where people sometimes spread them on grilled bread and munch away. Just thinking about it makes me want to rinse my mouth out with soap, which would be an improvement on the briny explosion oursin imposes on the palette. I’ll stick with the good old cheese-and-baguette formula, thanks very much.

So there’s my list. What about you, readers? Any French food traumas to report?

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Written By

Tory Hoen

After attending Brown University and spending two years in New York, Tory bought a one-way ticket to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a writer (and of drinking wine at lunch). During her time in the City of Light, she chronicled the euphoric highs and the laughable lows of ex-pat life on her blog, A Moveable Beast. Though she's now based in New York, she travels frequently to Montreal and Brazil, and she'll use just about any excuse to jet to Paris ("I ran out of fleur de sel"). A regular contributor to Hip Paris, Tory also writes for New York Magazine, Time Out New York, and she is a co-author of Gradspot.com's Guide To Life After College. View Tory Hoen's Website

One comment on “Top 5 Freaky French Foods We’re Still Scared To Eat

I agree with you about the boursin noir and the andouillette, but I like the others. My blood sausage experience – We were in at market day in Chablis and saw a man making sausage, which is something that should not be seen. He poured about 2 liters of blood into a pot, added some other ingredients, put it over the fire, and then stirred it with his hairy arm. No thank you!

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