Jul 10, 2007

Nouvelle Cuisine

In the winter of 1870-71, Paris was completely cut off from the rest of the world. Prussian army had surrounded Paris. Food stocks rapidly vanished and the Parisians were compelled to eat whatever was available.

Although horseflesh was customarily eaten in France, horses that once pulled carriages for the wealthy were now on their plate. Two horses gifted by the Russian Czar to Napoleon are estimated to be among the estimated 65,000 horses slaughtered for food. But with horse becoming difficult to obtain, gourmets turned their hungry gaze on cats and dogs.

Culinary skills were put to rigorous test so as to disguise the taste of such ‘novel’ ingredients of the cuisine. As the black winter wore on, there was still no sign of the siege ending. Soon rodents were added into the edible list. Large rats dangled from hooks in the rat market at the center of Paris, ornamental goldfish from the ponds of the local parks in Paris were also put up for sale. Local Parisian, once accustomed to the finest food now discussed the best way to cook rat meat and make it more edible.

French newspaper, ‘Les Nouvelles’ published the menu from the ingredients available, that the Parisians consumed. As shown:

Consomme de cheval au millet
(Horse soup with millet)

Brochettes de foie de chien a la maitre d hotel
(Dog liver kebabs)

Eminces de rable de chat sauce mayonnaise
(Slices saddle of cat with mayonnaise sauce)

Epaule de filet de chien sauce tomate
(Shoulder of dog with tomato sauce)

Civet de chat aux champignons
(Cat stew with mushrooms)

Cotelettes de chien aux petits pois
(Dog chops with peas)

Salmis de rats a la Robert
(Rat stew)

Gigot de chien flanque de ratons
(Dog leg with small rats)

Plum pudding au jus et a la moelle de cheval
(Plum pudding with horse-marrow sauce)

Paris Zoo reluctantly put up its animals for sale to serve as food for the Parisians. The zoo considered the lion and tiger dangerous to attempt for slaughter; monkeys were spared due to their close relation to humans. A hippopotamus was put up for sale at 80,000 francs, no one brought it because of the exorbitant price and also the risk that it might turn out to be inedible. However yaks, buffaloes and elephants made a roaring trade.
By the end of January 1871, the siege was over and it was with much respite that the Parisians returned to their conventional fare.

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