Chef Leonard Hollander of Marion Street Cheese Market is in the final phases of his grand gastronomic tour of Europe. In a recent post on his blog, Hollander relates a story about going to a café in Paris that specializes in andouillette. As he explains, "when ordering I had no prior knowledge of andouillette, and that was why I chose it."
I had a similar experience in Mexico City in 1980. I went to a small student restaurant, and ordered off the menu without knowing what it was that I was ordering. At that point, the only thing in the world I could not bear to consume was chitterlings (diced pig intestine) and, of course, that's exactly what this mystery food turned out to be. I choked down a few bites, but could not come close to finishing even half.
Andouillette, it turns out, is pig intestine sausage. Hollander described the experience like this: "I rarely, RARELY don't enjoy food, but this was perhaps the thing of all things that I just couldn't bear to eat. It smelled of wet dog and tasted like hatred. I simply can't imagine how anyone could consume such a thing and I honestly thought that the server may have been playing a trick on the unsuspecting Americans, but it didn't seem so. He returned to ask what I thought and I answered simply, 'um…maybe not for me, but thank you for the experience.' No harm, no foul, sometimes taking a chance works, other times it's like standing behind an angry donkey."
Hollander noted that there's even a group of gourmands who evaluate restaurants based on the quality of their pig intestine sausage. This group, AAAAA – or Amicable Association of Admirers of Authentic Andouillette – is, I'm guessing, comprised mostly of guys.
I respect Hollander's willingness to leap into the unknown when sitting at the dinner table, and although I like to think I'm ready to eat anything, there are limits…even if it's what all the guys are eating.