Tank of lobsters at fish shop
'Hommard' are hard to see in this dim fish tank,
but there are about 15 of them in it.

Paris' Chicken 'Mystery' Exposed

from Kim Murray, via the Internet Dear Ric,

Paris:- Monday, 28. April 1997:- Having just read your chicken piece, the answer to the mystery is obvious to an outsider. They are eating the chickens. What else would the French do with them for Pete's sake?

I have a French friend, Jacques, who has been here for three years or so and retains his barbaric French ways. Recently he invited me and a contact from the bank for lunch.

He proudly displayed four live crayfish, that Americans and, god forbid, the French, would know as lobster. They were flapping around the floor as Jacques produced a long carving knife and a hammer.

Horror! What is he going to do? Jacques, without the slightest sympathy for the groans of anxiety of his guests, proceeded to lop the heads from the crayfish as cleanly as Madame Guillotine.

The top spider-like halves were still crawling around looking for the first time at their bottom halves. Then the head sections were laid on their backs, the knife placed along the centre line and the hammer brought down with force and dexterity to end each creatures' life.

The bank manager was white-knuckled, as though he had just been robbed, and was wondering if that was what he liked about the French; their earthy barbarity.

A short time later Jacques served-up the best crayfish, done in butter and pepper and something else, and we gorged, dunked bread, and quickly forgave him.

Jacques and I had a long chat over a bottle of pastis the other day and it is our considered opinion, after consuming a lunch of prawns and red emperor fish and a bottle of cape mentelle sauvignon blanc, that animal 'rights' are a fine thing if one is a vegetarian. If there are any vegetarians in France, we salute you.

'Vive la France!'

What Are Crayfish? Or Crawfish?
Dear Kim,

Paris:- Friday, 2. May 1997:- Crayfish are not called lobsters in France; they are 'homards.' Crayfish are freshwater crustaceans that resemble lobsters, but are smaller.

But broadly speaking, they are also spiny lobsters, so I guess you can legally call them crayfish. The word comes through old English 'crevis,' from unattested old French. 'Crevette' in modern French, is shrimp or prawns.

It is good of you and Jacques to clear up the ultimate fate of chickens, with the example of the crayfish.

Modern transportation and distribution have certainly spread French culinary riches throughout the country - allowing people to be removed from the sources - but the French as a whole seem to retain their attachment to the country, and for the 'hands-on' handling of food. In any case, the countryside itself, begins a little before the outskirts of the city.

Regards, Ric

Note: Kim Murray's eMail was prompted by the 'chicken' story, which was launched with a reader's letter, which became a Metropole feature: Paris is Not Chicken Crazy, but They're Available in Issue 2.16. This has evolved to eggs in the last issue, and eggs are again treated in this issue - because I've gone 'chicken-crazy.' There is also an excellent song, 'The Whole Worlds' Gone Chicken-Crazy,' by Joe Tex.

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