A Story of a Gruesome Sausage and the Book that Could’ve Saved Us

There is a story that my husband likes to trot out whenever the subject of Paris or French food comes up. Back in 2001, he was in Paris on business and I was tagging along; attempting to visit museums that were all on strike, getting hit on in parks, and eating crepes and pan au chocolat because that is what I knew how to order in French. One night we met up with a colleague and his girlfriend for dinner at a famous French bistro, whose name escapes me.

When we sat down to eat, I ordered what I usually order in a French bistro. I was young (and picky) so I played it safe with the steak frites — medium rare. My husband? I guess he felt he had something to prove to his friend and decided to deviate from the tried and true by ordering L’andouille sausage. You francophiles might be laughing right about now, knowing what is coming, while you cajun food lovers might be wondering what could possibly be wrong with that?

Glenn thought the same thing — he loves cajun food and andouille sausage. Or so he thought….until it arrived. Giant. Grey. Grisly. Stringy. Stinky. Ugh. Now Glenn has traveled extensively and after working for a Japanese company, he knew what it was like to be challenged to eat certain foods. But he couldn’t do it, he just couldn’t save face. His friend saw him struggling (ehm, gagging) and came to the rescue. He traded his steak frites for Glenn’s andouille sausage (so kind!) Except one thing. He’d ordered his steak rare — or more like raw.

Glenn did that little kid thing of pushing the meat around his plate and eating some french fries. I offered him some of my steak but he said he wasn’t hungry. Yet when we finally said our goodbyes and were walking back to the hotel he asked to stop off in a market because he was starving. “What are you talking about?” I asked, thinking back to how I’d offered him my leftovers. “Well I had to pretend I wasn’t hungry so it wouldn’t look strange that I didn’t eat the steak,” he explained.

The Farm to Table French Phrasebook travel book review

Learn how to order in restaurants and shops in France. Photo courtesy of Anna at Slightly Astray

Now before I throw andouille/andouillette completely under the bus, check out what Andrew and Brenda from Dish our Town have to say about it.

But for us, we learned a lesson — know what you are ordering before you order.

Which is why, when I first heard of The Farm to Table French Phrasebook: Master the Culture, Language and Savoir Faire of French Cuisine by Victoria Mas, I knew that was something I needed in my library.

Travel Book Review: The Farm to Table French Phrasebook

Travel book review: The Farm to Table French PhrasebookA French native, Victoria Mas grew up in the South of France and after studying in California, got her Master’s Degree in literature from the Paris Sorbonne University. Her passion for French food and the French way of life comes through quite clearly throughout the book, as does her knowledge of food, wine, and the elegance of French cuisine.

The Farm to Table French Phrasebook is a cross between a menu guide, simple phrasebook, and French food manual — and it even has some recipes thrown in. The problem is, while it is a great book to sit back and read with a glass of wine, it isn’t as accessible to travelers. Mas goes through some very simple vocabulary and pronunciations early on, but I found it really hard to get any of it to stick in my head. Maybe I’m just more of an auditory learner when it comes to languages, but a few minutes with the Coffee Break French podcast is going to do a lot more for me.

The book really isn’t organized like a typical phrasebook where it is easy to thumb through under the table while sitting at a restaurant. It is more of a manual for French eating that you study at home. But even if you don’t conquer the language, what Mas does well is help you understand the French way of eating, ordering and enjoying food together.

Each chapter covers a different topic; from understanding what is typically eaten at each meal, to understanding the differences between a boulangerie and a patisserie. She breaks down how and where to shop and what to order at the butchery, fishmonger, and specialty stores. I was surprised at the level of detail in the primer on French cheese and wine, and was delighted to find some classic recipes at the back of the book.

Parisian-boulangerie: Farm to Table French Phrasebook review

Learn the difference between a boulangerie and patisserie. Photo courtesy of Anna at Slightly Astray

So while you may not find such phrases as “The aisles are so narrow! There isn’t even enough room for two carts,” very useful, the knowledge you will gain about French foods and classic dishes would be extremely helpful if you are staying in France for any length of time.

Travel book review: The Farm to Table French Phrasebook

Learn the best places to buy macarons. Photo courtesy of Anna at Slightly Astray.

I’d recommend this book as a great present for a student headed off to a semester abroad or someone visiting France for a length of time who really wants to “live like a local.” I thought it would be helpful in preparing me for our visit to Quebec City, but while some of the food descriptions were helpful, the book really is very French-specific (vs. French Canadian.)

By the way, when describing L’Andouille, Mas explains that it is slang for “dumb” or “idiot.” So there you go.

Note: A review copy of The Farm to Table French Phrasebook was provided to me for free by Ulysses Press. Book photos courtesy of Ulysses Press. All other photos courtesy of my pal Anna at the Slightly Astray blog (check her out!)


10 Comments on “A Story of a Gruesome Sausage and the Book that Could’ve Saved Us

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  1. Haha! That sausage story is great! Now I’m imagining just how horrible it could have tasted! Something like this book definitely would have helped me when I was in Paris. We only ate at one French restaurant (with no English menu) and we were frantically trying to google translate the entire menu, haha!

    What a good idea for a book. Information about food is so detailed and nuanced that a reliable source of information like this would come in handy while traveling.

    I have and love this book. And while I completely agree with you on the andouillette it is one of my [French] husband’s favorites! Bleh!

      It must be one of those things you need to grow up eating! 🙂

    This is such a fun book! I actually won a copy that another blogger was giving away. It makes me want to jump on a plane with my family and visit France. Someday!

    Haha! When I went to France, I just had my French-speaking friend order everything for me. I would totally have done the same thing!

    Now I’m excited to check out that podcast! Thanks.

    haha i can’t imagine how hard it would be to order in france. i already have a hard enough time ordering here where i understand what everything is. i always try to pick something that sounds really interesting and different while jacob orders his safe items.. and we almost always end up switching after! 😛

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