"By early October  even bourgeois Paris had turned to horsemeat. ... As hunger tightened its grip, so many a splendid champion of the turf came to a well-spiced end in the casserole. Among them were two trotting horses presented by the Tsar to Louis Napoleon at the time of the Great Exposition, originally valued at 56,000 francs, now bought by a butcher for 800. It was mid-November, however, that supplies of fresh meat were exhausted--and it was then that Parisians invented the exotic menus with which the siege will always be linked. The signs 'Feline and Canine Butchers' made their first appearance. To begin with, dog-loving Parisians objected fiercely to slaughtering domestic pets for human consumption, but soon necessity overcame their fastidiousness. By mid-December [columnist] Henry Labouchere ... was telling his readers, 'I had a slice of spaniel the other day,' adding that it made him 'feel like a cannibal.' A week later he reported that he had encountered a man who was fattening up a large cat which he planned to serve up on Christmas Day, 'surrounded with mice, like sausages.' ...
"And then it was rats. Along with the carrier-pigeon, the rat was to become the most fabled animal of the Siege of Paris, and from December the National Guard spent much of its time engaged in vigorous rat- hunts. ... The elaborate sauces that were necessary to render them edible meant that rats were essentially a rich man's dish--hence the notorious menus of the Jockey Club, which featured such delicacies as salmis de rats and rat pie.Alistaire Horne, Seven Ages of Paris, Pan Books, Copyright 2002 by Alistaire Horne, pp. 295-297.
"As the weeks passed, Parisian diets grew even more outlandish as the zoos started to offer up their animals. ... By early January, [a young Englishman named Tommy Bowles] was noting, 'I have now dined off camel, antelope, dog, donkey, mule, and elephant, which I approve in the order in which I have written ... horse is really too disgusting, and it has a peculiar taste never to be forgotten.' His was not the only palate that became more discriminating: there was a significant variation in price between brewery and sewer rats. ... A lamb offered to one British correspondent ironically proved to be a wolf. ...
"Oddly enough, there was never any shortage of wine or other alcohol."
In August I got an email from Gabrielle Langholtz, the Publicity Director of Greenmarket, who also wears the hat of magazine editor.
"I loved having you write for my magazine, Edible Brooklyn, and the owners are now expanding to launch Edible Manhattan, and I'd love to publish you there too."
Wow, that's good news Gabrielle! Congratulations on the launch of Edible Manhattan, and thank you for thinking of me.
Saturday I got the inaugural issue and I read Dan Barber's enlightening story of Eng his pastry chef at Blue Hill and their conception of a cheese platter; and how Issac Mizrahi's thoughts on food have made him the Blaise Pascal of New York kitchenry, and much more...oh and here's the piece of mine that Gabrielle graciously published.
One morning, Kali opened the refrigerator, looked at the leftover salad and said she was going to throw it out; I told her not to, but it's slime she said. I credit her for naming the morning-after salad. There is nothing better than slime for breakfast. Salad reaches a zenith of perfection after sitting overnight in the refrigerator, the acidic marinade of lemon, vinegar, tamari, honey, olive oil and red onions wilts the lettuce, which was said to be psychotropic by the ancient Greeks. A customer reported that he ate 3 heads of romaine but didn't get high, just very full; yet we agreed that Socrates must have been on something, a different variety, red leaf perhaps.
pH balance is an eating theory whose premise is that certain foods, the acidic ones, like lemons and vegetables, make the body buffer them; producing an alkaline human system; alkalinity of the blood is the pH of health according to the proponents of pH balance. Whether or not this is true is of no interest to me; I like acidic foods, you can feel well-being come over you as you slurp the marinade of slime right out of the bowl. Each to his own, but food like politics and religion has its own extremists.
When I have vegetables for sale, customers will see the lamb on the table and say, oh you have meat too, turning up their noses. I smile and ask them if they are vegetarian; I tell them that vegetarianism is healthy, that I like vegetarians, that sheep are vegetarians and I like to eat them.
To quote a cynical Steve Martin playing opposite an appalled Debra Winger in Leap of Faith, "I never said I was a nice guy."
And going further, last week I got another veganish statement masquerading as a question: "after you shear them, then you kill them" stated with a look of disdain that meant: how heartless, you use them, then you slaughter them, you farm ghoul. Yes, but before I kill them, being a flag waving American, a staunch supporter of the President, one who agrees with him that "the Constitution is just a God damn piece of paper," I torture them first. As if on cue, Andrea drops her jaw in astonishment, summarily dismisses me, comforts the poor vegan to save the sale, gets the money and when the customer has left, chastises me for my dyspeptic humor. I shrug and smile; I employ Andrea because she's an adult, freeing me from that responsibility on market day.
Farmers look forward to market days; they are days of celebration. It's good to see your regular customers again, shoot the breeze and make new acquaintances. Cash is going to flash; and if the weather's with us, we will go home flush, you with your good food and us with our good reward.
Later in our correspondence about deadlines Gabrielle confided, "I'm having a baby, getting married, and with a heavy heart, leaving Greenmarket. My life is changing. Did I tell you that my man is a sheep farmer too?"
Wow, now that's really good news Gabrielle! Lives change right before our eyes and beautifully so. You begin a life, and begin another one too; we will miss you in your Greenmarket hat.
Edible Manhattan is $7 at Barnes & Noble and Borders, free at some restaurants and shops and $35 a year from ediblemanhattan.com.
And if you've been forced, or coerced by love, to live in Brooklyn, or are in smiling denial of your river crossing habit—I empathize with you—here's the piece, Search for Loomi, that appeared in the 2007 Summer issue of Edible Brooklyn.