You can get things in the grocery store in France that you can’t get in Germany. Or in Canada for that matter. Like horse.
It has been one of those things I have wanted to try for years, but just hadn’t had the opportunity. You can buy horse meat in Canada, but only certain places. Used to be only in Quebec, but I think it is allowed in other places now.
Even in Quebec there were restrictions on the sale of the meat. It couldn’t be sold in any place that also sold beef. Supposedly the two meats taste alike, and in the past unscrupulous retailers have sold cheaper horse meat as more expensive beef.
Many years ago I did have the chance to sample zebra, so long ago that I don’t really remember much about the taste. I seem to recall it was beef-like, but rather gamy.
Naturally when I saw horse meat at Carrefour (the French equivalent of Wal Mart) I knew I had to try it. So I picked up a small steak to share with my wife. It wasn’t really cheaper than beef, but I figured it would be interesting to see how it tasted.
So I can now report: horse tastes just like beef.
I’m not the first in my family to eat a horse steak, just the first to do so voluntarily. My grandfather ate horse in 1918. He didn’t want to, but it was eat horse or starve.
He was serving with the Canadian army, a sergeant in a horse-drawn artillery unit that was part of an expedition to put the Tsar back on the Russian throne. Not Canada’s finest hour militarily. The winter was brutal, the military effort a disaster, and they ran out of food. They ate their horses.
At least that is how I remember my mother telling the tale when I was younger. I was 10 when my grandfather died. I don’t remember him talking about the war. I don’t remember any of that generation talking about their experiences – but maybe they just thought I was too young.
What I did learn this week though is that eating their horses, while an admission of defeat for an artillery unit, really wasn’t a hardship. Horse is pretty tasty.