Decoding The French Menu: The Truth About Steak à Cheval

by Tory Hoen

HiP Paris has brought you fabulous content since 2008! We’ve peeked through the archives to revisit some of our most loved articles. We’re excited to republish this piece by Tory Henwood Hoen, an early team member at HiP Paris. She wrote about her misadventures as an expat in Paris, and now she’s written her first novel, The Arc. Below she reminisces about finding her way as a young writer in Paris.

Years into my love affair with Paris, I’m still making ridiculous rookie mistakes. I suppose it’s time to accept that France will always have the upper hand, but it still stings. My most recent humiliation is horse-related. Or at least, I thought it was.

A white plate with a fried egg, yellow cheddar, brown steak, green salad, and golden fries.
Top: Steak à Cheval by @lesfilsamamanlille / Chez Ginette in Montmartre by @unealternanteaparis
Above: Steak à Cheval by @thealbionpublichouse.caluire

So when I first moved to Paris and started noticing “steak à cheval” on menus around town, I was wary. I knew there was a historical precedent of eating horse meat in France, but it seemed quite inhumane in this day and age. Nonetheless,  I assumed it was some kind of trendy gastronomic revival, and who was I to question the local gourmands? So I kept my mouth shut and simply avoided the dreaded horse steak when confronted with it. Recently, I was visiting my boyfriend’s family in Brazil. One night, we sat down to dinner and I was presented with a traditional dish called bife a cavalo (in Portuguese), which translates to “horse-riding steak” or “steak à la horse.”“Horse?” I asked, panic rapidly setting in. “No, it’s like steak à cheval in France,” G explained.“ Sooo….. horse?” I wondered again.It was at this point that I realized I’d been operating under a serious misapprehension, and it took the collision of three cultures for the truth to surface.

Left: A Parisian terrace with wooden tables and green parasols. Right: 2 gray plates with eggs, bread, golden fries, and tomatoes.
A terrace in the 5th arrondisement by @frammentidiparigi / Steak à Cheval by @chezalexmontpellier

No wonder the French had seemed so lax about all that presumed “horse-eating”—they weren’t eating horse at all. It turns out that steak à cheval (or bife a cavalo) is merely a cut of beef with a fried egg on top. It turns out the French aren’t as barbaric as I thought! And it turns out I’m kind of an idiot. I shudder to think what other misconceptions I’ve been carrying around all this time, but I have a feeling the truth will win out. Paris will see to that.

Left: A courtyard with green crawling plants and a wooden table with a white parasol. Right: A building with golden decor and gray pillars.
A Parisian courtyard / Petit Palais by @hifromalix

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Written by Tory Hoen for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Plum GuideHaven In and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out marketplace shop and experiences.

Left: A basket full of brown, pink, red, and blue eggs. Right: A café with dark wooden walls, colorful chairs, and wooden tables.
Colorful eggs by @the.nested.acre / La Palette by @eyepreferparis
Written By

Tory Hoen

Tory Henwood Hoen is a former Paris resident who now lives in Brooklyn. Her debut novel, The Arc, is available in bookshops near you and online View Tory Hoen's Website

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