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Friday, February 26, 2010

Traveling - Be Careful What You Order

The greatest thing about traveling is that it is usually an adventure. You get to experience different cultures, languages, and foods. We have been very fortunate while traveling to encounter people that are willing to take the extra time so that we can understand each other and this makes for some wonderful and interesting experiences.

In the fall of 2003, we dropped our son at college to start his first year and three days later my wife and I flew to France for a month long vacation. We started with several days in Paris, then picked up our rental car and spent the rest of the time driving a grand loop around the towns and countryside of France.

Near the end of our trip we were in the Northeastern corner of France and pulled into the little town of Wissembourg in the early evening. We found a Campanile hotel to stay the night; it is a hotel chain similar to a Days Inn. These hotels are attractive because they have a restaurant attached and so we don’t have to explore too far to find dinner. We have found that eating where the locals eat provides a very good flavor of the area.

We went to the restaurant to have dinner and we could see on their menu board that the special that night was rognon. We had no idea what rognon is and it was not listed in our little Rick Steve’s French dictionary. Looking around the restaurant, we could see quite a few of the other diners had plates of rognon which was a meat (looked like pot roast) with a dark sauce accompanied by potato and vegetables. It looked very good!

When the waiter came over, we requested the rognon special. The waiter wanted to make sure we knew what we ordered so he used his hands and drew circles in the air in front of his stomach. OK, so we would get rounds of beef - no problem.

Our meals arrived and we eagerly took a bite of the beef in the dark rich sauce. We savored the flavor of the sauce and then started to chew, and “OMG, what are we eating?” It became quickly apparent that we were eating some kind of organ meat. There are “O” words that I don’t eat: Organs and Okra (I tried to think up a third word, but I couldn’t while writing this).  I managed to chew and swallow a few pieces of meat, but my wife couldn’t take the texture and taste and just ate the other parts of the meal. We thought that the meat must be kidneys and that is why the waiter was making the circles. Note to waiter: kidneys are in the lower back, not the stomach.

The next day, we shopped at a local market and there in the pastry case was a pastry in the shape of the rognon. Definitely a kidney! We purchased one of the pastries to eat on the road, and had one meal of rognon that we both enjoyed.

The meal of rognon was a surprise and not the culinary experience we expected, but it was still and experience as well as an adventure and makes for a great story.

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