On the third Friday of every October, Limoges celebrates offal. Yes, organ meat: spleen, intestine, brains, blood, kidneys… all of those delicacies that seem so foreign and maybe even a bit unpalatable take place of pride at the Frairie des Petits Ventres, which takes place on the aptly named rue de la Boucherie, or butchery street.
This October played host to the 42nd edition of the festival, which actually has roots in a medieval tradition. The frairie was held every year once the weather became cool enough to sell these morsels, and the local butchers—who were once the stars of Limoges’ economy and social structure—were the hosts.
Today, the festival is a celebration of all local foods. When it opens early in the morning, the festival welcomes mainly an older clientele, who grew up on many of these now-rare cuts of meat and come here to source them for a once-a-year treat. In the afternoon, locals who work in nearby offices come to the neighborhood for andouillette sandwiches and local flognarde cake. In the evenings, the entire city floods the street, as the young and old mingle and eat, drink and dance.
Emily Monaco is a born-and-raised New Yorker based in Paris. After many years of trying, she has come to the conclusion that she will likely never be French. She writes about her experiences with Franglais and food on her blog, tomatokumato.com. Follow her on Twitter @emiglia.
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Tripe is one of the most popular offal sold at the frairie. The tripiers, who deal in offal and tripe, unload it onto their stalls by the bucketload.
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An andouillette sandwich topped with fried onions is one of the most popular snacks to enjoy at the frairie. It has a very distinctive smell, due to the use of pork colon as a casing.
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Boudin noir and andouillette are sold cold or in sandwiches. The former is a French-style blood pudding; the latter is a divisive dish that some are passionate about and others happily leave behind.
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Chestnuts are very popular as an ingredient in foods at the frairie, from boudin noir to cake. Until the 18th century porcelain industry took center stage in Limoges, the local economy was fairly poor, and the chestnut, easily scavenged on the ground, was a major ingredient in local foods. This enormous chestnut was being sold by a gentleman who had recently scored a 44-gram specimen.
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When placed on the grill, boudin noir often splits and sizzles, offering caramelized portions that contrast with the creamy interior, made with thickened pig blood.
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Girot is a popular offal that is very difficult to find anywhere in Limoges except for at the frairie. The dish is made with blood serum packed into intestine and must be prepared in a way similar to liver to be palatable. The traditional recipe calls for deglazing it with vinegar and parsley.
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The bright pink-purple color of girot is lost in cooking; once cooked, it turns a grayish purple. While it might seem unappetizing, there was a long line of older Limougeauds waiting to get their hands on just a few slices at the frairie.
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The offal being sold by the tripier was quite varied, including girot, lamb kidneys, sheep testicles, and the namesake petits ventres of the festival: sheep stomachs stuffed with offal.
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Huge slabs of foie gras with a thick layer of yellow fat on the top are smeared on bread without ceremony for foie gras sandwiches to enjoy as you peruse the festival.
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These little local snails differ a great deal from their larger Burgundian cousins. These snails are stuffed with butter, white wine and herbs and then cooked over a hot fire until ready. The gentleman preparing them was deft in tossing them between two metal paddles to make sure they were cooked evenly.