July 10, 2010

The Great Boudin Catastrophe of 2006

This installment of Gross Recipe of the Week (which, let's be honest, should really be called Bi-Monthly Gross Recipe) is less recipe and more reminiscence of the closest I've ever come to killing someone with my bare hands. Keep in mind that, even as a teacher of fourteen- and fifteen-year olds, I never felt as murderous as I did during The Great Boudin Catastrophe of 2006.

Let me paint you a picture.

I had made it halfway through my year abroad in Toulouse, France. Please note the choice of "made it through," and not "enjoyed immensely." I was living in an HLM, with Host Mom: a single mother of a three- and a five-year old. Based on the fact that Host Mom quit her job at Photoservice (a photo developing shop) because she could earn more money from the government as a single mother of two, I think it's safe to say that she only signed up to be a host mother to get the extra 500 euros a month from my study abroad program, and not to establish a profound and lasting connection with une américaine.

Our apartment in the HLM building was on the ground floor, and had walls that might actually be featured as an illustration in the dictionary next to the term "paper thin." I never got a chance to check, because I was too busy stifling the impulse to lock the three-year old out on the terrace at night so I wouldn't have to hear her cry every night, all year.

Host Mom never got it together to get me a key, so we just agreed to leave the door (ON THE GROUND FLOOR) unlocked at all times. The problem with "at all times," I learned, is that it didn't apply to those times when Host Mom's parents came to take her out to dinner. At those times, the door was locked, and I would have to hoist myself up onto the terrace and break into my own house. More than once, I was asked to explain myself by a concerned neighbor, and tried to do so despite the fact that my French vocabulary was not developed enough for me to say things like "my host mother is a deadbeat and I'm not a robber...and, seriously, who would EVER rob this place?"

The food chez Host Mom was, like Host Mom, unpredictable. Some nights, she served an amazing vegetable stew over couscous, or swiss chard cooked in a garlic cream sauce. Other nights, she served her daughters chocolate milk as a main course and offered me the last kernels of some home-popped (and by popped, I obviously mean burnt) popcorn she had made earlier in the evening.

But all of that paled in comparison to the night of The Great Boudin Catastrophe. My friend C, who was living with a slightly crazy but far more competent host mother, was over at Host Mom's house with me for a pre-Noël farewell dinner, because I had plans to leave the next day to fly back to MURKA and eat some Freedom Fries and Liberty Toast. Host Mom spent a lot of time in the kitchen, banging pots together and making cooking sounds in general, and eventually called us à table.

Here's a pretty good reproduction of what Host Mom served us:


C was smart enough to just dig in without asking questions, but, because the sausage had the flavor of, well, burnt ass, I was curious. And you know what they say about curiosity.

Here's a transcript, from memory, of how the meal went down:

K: Wow, this sausage is...different looking!

HM: Yes, it's very special sausage.

K: Oh...cool. So...the texture. It's, like, really soft. Kind of like a mousse. Most sausages are more coarse, right? What kind of meat is this?

[At this point, C started shaking her head vigorously at me, because she knew more than I did about what we were eating.]

HM: Well...it's not exactly meat.

K: Oh, is it, like, vegetarian? I know you don't usually eat meat.

HM: No...it's, um, made of blood. Pig's blood.

K: Oh.

K, internally: MOTHERF***ER.

So it turns out that what we were eating is called boudin noir, also known under the aliases of black pudding and blood sausage. Now, I'm all about trying new foods, and I really like the idea of being open to the cuisine of different regions and NOT being a typical squeamish American. But if there's one thing I firmly believe, it's this: It is not cool to surprise-feed someone blood.

I wish I could say that I liked boudin, and that I'm one of those cool people who can eat and use all parts of an animal and therefore not be wasteful. But I'm just not. And the only way I avoided leaping across the table and murdering Host Mom then and there was to remember that, in 24 hours, I would be home in the U.S. for Christmas, riding comfortably up to Maine and counting the comfortingly preposterous number of Dunkin Donuts chains along the way.


  1. Ralph from OmahaJuly 11, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    Kitt, hysterical story, made my stomach hurt reading it. I am lucky to say I have never been fed blood before!

  2. Oh my god, when I was in Mexico, I accidentally ordered soup made from cow bowels. My teachers thought this was hysterical and let me try it and run to the bathroom gagging before explaining what it was.

  3. Kitt - long time since no see in the writing center but i had to read this since it reminded me of all the ridiculous black chorizo I had to eat in Spain. My host mom was practically blind and one night i got a piece of chicken that was straight up raw. After that, I wore a hoodie sweatshirt to the dinner table every night and put anything undercooked in my pockets, hahaha. Anyway, best of luck with cooking/teaching!

    Caitlin Garlow