Don’t you think that tripe is beautiful? I never much appreciated it before coming to France, but look how pristine and sculptural it is. Cooked, it’s even more appetizing to contemplate.
Of course, this was the best of homemade tripe, lovingly photographed by Klary Koopmans and cooked by the two of us, together with a couple of pig’s feet. Then there’s this.
The taboo tripe. The tripe we fear. The tripe of whose very existence most of us are blissfully unaware. Canned tripe. Yes indeedy, there is canned tripe, and I’ve got a pretty good collection right in my kitchen. Lacking anyone with whom to cook and eat tripe this week, I did what any solitary French tripe fancier might do: I resorted to the hard stuff. Tripe in tins. The very idea makes one shiver.
But which can to crack? There’s à la Catalane, cooked, according to the label, with beef feet, white wine, carrots, onions, and cornichon pickles – the can suggests serving this with steamed potatoes or a zucchini flan, accompanied by a Provencal rosé. There’s mode Bretonne, looking pretty unadorned with only onions, butter, and vinegar, also suggested to go with steamed potatoes, but this time with a glass of cider on the side. Then there’s Provencale style, prepared with tomatoes and onions, as well as thyme, basil, and parsley – this one would like to be served with vegetable ravioli or a confit of tomatoes with some broccoli and a glass of Coteaux d’Aix. And the famous, or infamous à la mode de Caen, made with beef feet, white wine, and carrots, and presented with the serving suggestion of Dauphin potatoes or baked caramelized apples and a glass of Gewurztraminer or cider. Tripe with baked apples. There’s a thought.
Having no better dinner plan, I think I’ll open them all and have a taste-off. The fact that I have no potatoes, zucchini, apples, ravioli, or any of the suggested wines in the house might be a problem. I do have broccoli and cider, but somehow, they both sound weird with tripe. Also, I think something a little stronger than cider might be called for when supping on four sorts of tripe. Ok, off to the kitchen!
A quick spin through the oven et voilà! Would you believe that these are all edible, some even good? It’s true. Contrary to my expectations, canned tripe is not at all bad. From the bottom left we have the Bretonne, my favorite, with a buttery smooth mellowness that reminded me of a good beef stew. Moving clockwise, the Catalane was pretty good, with a nice edge of acidity from the cornichons, the tartness leaving it not as rich as the Bretonne. Then the Provencale, my least favorite. Despite the promise of herbs, I found the flavor to be pretty insipid. Not actively bad, mind you, but not interesting to eat. And then the à la mode de Caen. This one had me gagging as it came out of the can, with its super large chunks of tripe all encased in clear jelly. You get the picture. Warm, the flavor was delicious, very natural and pure tasting. But the texture defeated me, those huge chunks were just too visceral.
Although past experience has shown that Beppo is interested in tripe
I couldn’t get him to touch the canned stuff. So probably I’ll get a can of Bretonne style tripe to keep in the cupboard for tripe emergencies, and I won’t have to worry about sharing with Beppo. And of course you’re imagining that I don’t have to worry about sharing with Shel, but I’ll let you in on a secret. Just the other night in Lyon Shel was seen eating tripe, cold, in mayonnaise. Imagine that.