Limoges feeds French nostalgia with a feast of organ meat

While the French may be renowned for their refined culinary tastes, they have another side. It was on full display this month in this city in central France known for its expensive porcelain but with another side of its own.

Limoges is also a city of butchers, and their annual festival, La Frairie des Petits Ventres, or The Brotherhood of Small Bellies, is a celebration of what Christine Travers delicately terms “products that we could never find in supermarkets.”

The festival was created with the idea of building interest in the meat products consumed by peasants in much older days. One local favorite is the Amourettes — literally, “the fling” — a dish of sheep testicles cooked in garlic, parsley and port.

Mrs. Travers had just finished a blood sausage sandwich and a piece of chestnut pie, and after washing it down with some cider, confided a closely held secret: it is the sheep testicles that draw her most of all.

“It melts in your mouth, and tastes like lamb sweetbread,” she said, as she made her way though a crowd of ecstatic seekers after delicacies prepared from tripe, lamb testicles, and the organs of lamb, veal and pigs.

The one-day festival starts in the morning with an open-air market, and closes in the evening with a religious procession. It is the excellence of the tripe that attracts hundreds of food lovers to the narrow Rue de la Boucherie, or butcher’s street, a picturesque medieval lane lined with half-timbered houses…

The Frairie des Petits Ventres was created in 1973 by Renaissance du Vieux Limoges, an association of preservationists and butchers who came together successfully to fight plans to demolish the old city center.

The butchers showed their commitment, they said, by putting up stalls outside their shops to sell cooked innards and local specialties. The Frairie des Petits Ventres quickly became a local institution.

Eating everything but the breath expelled at slaughter is a tradition born of economics. Only societies with abundance – or rather ruled by those with access to abundance – begin to forget utilization of every bit of consumables.

And though I have noted in other posts my dislike for blood sausage, I enjoy a few family recipes for heart, tongue and, of course, haggis.

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