I explained to Desperrières that I was American and I’d never eaten horseflesh before, at least to the best of my knowledge. He eyed me with a shopkeeper’s suspicion, as if I were about to waste his time. I wanted to buy something tasty, I said. He warmed up a little.
The shop had several cuts on display. The andouillette, a sausage made from pork and horse tripes, did not strike me as especially appetizing.
The horse filet “tournedos style” wrapped in pork fat seemed more appealing, but maybe just a bit too much for lunch. There were flank steaks and entrecôtes and other choice morsels, just like you’d see in a beef butcher, but there was something instantly and obviously different about all of them: almost no visible fat. No marbling at all. And the color of the meat itself was a rich red verging on purple.
“How about one of these?” said the butcher, pointing to two freshly cut flank steaks on the board in front of him. Because they were so lean, they looked as if they might be tough. I asked how they should be cooked. “Saignant,” he said. “Rare.” “Ah,” I said, and put down my €2.41 ($3.15). The French hate to cook their meat, and over time I’ve acquired that taste. But, still, with horse?
As Desperrières wrapped the steak, I looked at the decorations put up more or less randomly on the white-tile walls, among them slick posters from the horsemeat association of France that try to make equine flesh seem trendy and even, God help us, sexy. In one, a gorgeous woman in a leather jacket is pictured above horsemeat tartare: “Share a raw moment,” it says.