Bone marrow, not on Tory’s list but, maybe it should be? (Roboppy)

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:

Boudin noir and mashed potatoes (Roboppy)

1. 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.

Boudin noir and caramelized apples (Sifu Renka)

2. 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: steak tartare (NwongPR); Right: a Parisian butcher truck (Austinevan)

3. 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.

Fromage de Tete (Roboppy)

4. 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.

Oursin (Noodlepie)

5. 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 for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven In.


Tory Hoen

Tory Henwood Hoen has been published by New York Magazine, Vogue, Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit, Fortune, and others. She was Creative Director of Brand at M.M.LaFleur, where she founded the brand’s digital magazine, The M Dash. Her debut novel, The Arc, is available in bookshops near you and online.


  1. Mad mad mad for steak tartare, sea urchin and andouilliette – enjoyed for many years.

    boudin noir and marrow bone – so so……and brains – don’t love.

    but sweetbreads – YES!!!!

  2. Admittedly, the Gallic palate can be a bit of a mystery to American taste buds, but I’m a huge fan of everything on your list — yes, even the much maligned andouillette. On rare occasions, a friend of mine procures a half-dozen of these ersatz turds for me, from Rouen. The secret is to grill them till they’re severely blackened and serve them bathed in a strong mustard sauce. What you’ll get is a delicious admixture of mustard, fat, and essence of too-aged beef. Sea urchins? They’re like brushing your teeth with sea water. What more could you ask for?

  3. I have just watched my brother in law try and eat Andouillette. Didn’t get past the first cm before he pushed it away with a retch. I declined to eat it after a quick sniff. My other brother in law said ‘ I quite like liver ‘ and then pushed it away after barely a mouthful. So there’s three of us, plus our wives and children who would say Andouillette is inedible! Bring on the sea urchin…

  4. Okay, I made it back to Paris and Andouillette was top of the list. I hate to say it, but I did not like it. This may be a first. It was most foul, and I guarantee it was some of the better andouillette available. I can’t imagine a sub-par species.

    I quickly ordered some boudin noir and pied de cochon which were both excellent.

  5. It’s funny reading this post. When I was in Paris for the first time, in a restaurant, I ordered andouilette (sp) sausage..not knowing what it really was. I thought a nice sausage dinner would be good. It didn’t look appetizing to me, but I ate a piece of it anyway. I could barely chew and swallow it, it was so disgusting. The smell of it was pretty foul, too. I just left the rest of the sausage on the plate and nibbled on french fries and salad. The waiter came by with a frown..asked if everything was ok. I appologized and said that I didn’t like it. What else could I say? They were very nice and offered another meal, but I basically lost my appetite. I figured it was a special French dish that I knew nothing about. I paid for it, and they gave me a free cafe au lait. That was the only bad experience with the food. Everything else was fantastic.

  6. I can’t believe I must be the voice of reason. Andouillette is the only thing on this list I have not 1) eaten 2) eat as often as I can! I return to Paris in 6 weeks, and this just bumped up in the list of “must-dos”

    1) Marrow- spread it like the most decadent (besides Jen-Yves Bordier of course) butter available- best when right out of the oven.

    2) Boudin Noir- rich, earthy- the truffe noir of sausage

    3) Fromage de tete- sliced upon crusty bread- a true homage to the pig. I like a duo with pied.

    4) Steak Tatare- like most- it’s all in the skill of the mix, and the freshness of the ingredients

    5) Uni/Oursin- a texture thing- when fresh, I am convinced it may be the perfect single bite of food to exist. When less than fresh, perhaps the foulest of foul.

  7. Fun article!

    While in Chartes we ate at a wonderful restaurant by the Cathedral. Being a first timer to France I wasn’t 100% sure of the menu and what everything was. I saw andouille and thought I knew what that was and ordered it. It was chunky and very, very ugly. I ate it up though because I just still thought it was sausage…. the power of the mind is amazing. It wasn’t terrible but I wouldn’t order it again.

  8. Well, why would anyone eat sea urchin is beyond me, but otherwise I had all of those listed on multiple occasions (I mean more than I could count) and they are quite nice and – if prepared well – delicious. And I’m not even French. But I’m from Europe, which brings me closer to these – some of which appear in quite a lot of other central and eastern European countries’ cuisine – and I like good food 🙂

  9. Yea, when I saw “Joue de boeuf” on a menu once, I got freaked. I can’t handle boudin noir. Love tartare though!

    That tête de boeuf sounds mega creepy.

    Clever post!

  10. I wish I was more adventurous with food, blood pudding (shudders). I applaud your ‘try it, you might like it’ spirit, even if you did get that frowny face from the server.

  11. My gag reflex is on overload eeeewwww I am with
    you 110% on all of these, don’t get me started on my husbands Italian taste buds 🙂
    Such a great post had a few giggles!!
    Carla x

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