Champion de Saucisson
Yes, it’s a sausage. The most unusual sausage I’ve ever tasted. I’m guessing that you’ve never eaten anything like it.
Gilbert Soulier in St. Jean de Maruejols is a master butcher and sausage maker, so naturally I dubbed him the champion de saucisson, champion of sausage makers. He’s won medals for many of his sausages and patés, including his paté aux châtaignes, saucisson pur porc, jambon sec, saucisson sec d’agneau, coppa, porc aux noisettes, and toro de combat.
Toro de combat? Right, that’s a fighting bull. And the sausage pictured above is in fact a sausage made shortly after one particular bull lost his last fight. More about that later, but let me just reassure you by saying that no, the sausage you see above is not any particular part of the bull. Just in case you were worrying.
The patés we bought from Monsieur Soulier, one made with chestnuts, one with cèpes or porcini mushrooms, were perfectly balanced and dreamy to eat. They’re sturdy enough to be satisfying on first bite, then they melt gently as they warm in your mouth. The chestnut sausage and honey sausage were supple and tasted of the sweetest, freshest pork you can imagine.
A close look at this pile of sausages reveals sausages made with goat cheese, some made with hazelnuts, and then there were the heaps of off-camera sausages, as well as pots of confits and preserved meats, patés, and rillettes. You can see why we’re already planning a trip back, this time to lay in supplies for a cassoulet. In the States I’d be making the confits and sausages for a cassoulet myself, but here there’s no temptation to do it the hard way as it’s much more pleasant to pay a visit to Monsieur Soulier.
Now, about that toro de combat sausage. We took it as a hostess gift to our neighbor, who promptly sliced it and offered it to us. Ulp. There was no way to avoid trying it without looking like a total weenie. A cautious sniff yielded an aroma of leather, something deeply pungent and organic. One might almost think of saddles, boots, and men sweating as they ran from the bull, if one were given to such flights of fancy. The meat was very red, way too red, in fact. The muscle fibers were clearly apparent, fighting muscles that they were.
Eventually I did eat a slice, with a reluctant fascination. You probably think I’m going to say “tasted like beef” but no, it didn’t. It tasted like raw power, and men’s ambitions, and fear. It wasn’t exactly like food, more like medicine or an incantation. One slice was enough to last a lifetime.
The sign says: don’t leave town without tasting our products. And indeed, I’ll never drive that road again without stopping for a taste of something exceptional. It’s just that saucisson de toro de combat, well, no thank you. Some things just aren’t meant to be eaten.