Andouille and andouillette

Illustration: Peter Campbell

Andouille and andouillette are two types of French sausage consisting largely of pig’s intestines. The word andouille probably comes from the Low Latin inductilia, which itself derives from the verb inducere, meaning ‘to introduce’ or ‘put into’ – in this case the filling of the sausage.

Andouille is a large, lightly smoked dry sausage usually sliced and eaten cold as a starter. The word is first recorded in the late 12th century in both its literal and slang meanings – the latter, as often in the case of sausages, referring to the penis and, by extension, to a stupid or objectionable person (cf. ‘prick’, ‘dick’ etc.). In presentday usage, andouille is an almost affectionate term of abuse, sometimes applied to oneself (as in ‘quelle andouille!’), roughly the equivalent of ‘wally’ or ‘twit’ in English.

There are two main, and rival, types of andouille – the andouille de Vire (in Normandy) and andouille de Guémené (in Brittany). In the first case, the pig’s intestines are cooked for hours, cut up and ‘introduced’ in higgledy-piggledly fashion into a casing made of the large intestine. In section, the filling has a marbled appearance. Andouille de Guémené, on the other hand, consists of many intestines of different diameters being threaded by hand into each other after being cooked, so that when sliced the andouille displays a beautiful series of concentric circles. Both types of andouille are then lightly smoked and dried. Because of its labour-intensive manufacturing process, andouille de Guémené costs about the three times as much as andouille de Vire. There exists a third and little-known variety of andouille known as andouille de boyaux de Charlieu (in the Loire department near Lyon) in which the pig’s tripe is usually encased in a pig’s stomach instead of the large intestine, making it look like a large haggis. Needless to say, each variety of andouille has its own confrérie (fraternity), whose members dress up in quaint, pseudo-mediaeval costumes and parade through the streets at andouille festivals. Andouille also migrated to the southern states of the US, where it was cross-fertilised with sausages introduced by German immigrants and mostly lost its tripe ingredients. It is a common ingredient of Cajun cuisine.

All versions of andouille have a delicate and quite mild tripey flavour. The same cannot be said of its much smaller cousin, andouillette, which consists of precooked, but not dried, pig’s innards and sometimes calf’s mesentery. Andouillettes are usually grilled and are at their best when their casing goes crisp. The crucial importance of that crispness was illustrated by a court case in 2002: a well-known hard-rock singer from Saint-Etienne, Bernard Lavilliers, threatened a restaurant chef with a mock revolver on the grounds that the andouillette he had just been served was not crisp enough. A very French incident, one might suppose. Also typically French – I may be accused of generalisation – is the fierce competition between the various towns that produce andouillettes, most of them located in the north and east of France. Troyes lays claim to being the world capital of the andouillette. An annual prize for the best andouillette is awarded by the Association Amicale des Amateurs d’Andouillette Authentique (AAAAA, or 5A). Many would claim that andouillette is an acquired taste, so pungent is the aroma released when it is cut up. Troyes was the birthplace of Edouard Herriot, thrice prime minister of France and long-serving mayor of Lyon in the first half of the 20th century. He was naturally a great fan of andouillettes. He once remarked, wisely, that ‘politics, like an andouillette, should smell of shit – but not too much.’

Andouillette used to feature regularly on the menu of a Paris restaurant, Aux Lyonnais, which attempted to reproduce the rather noisy, no-nonsense atmosphere of a typical Lyon bouchon. The food was excellent, but the establishment had one major drawback: the overbearing attitude of its patron, ‘le père Violet’. A rather unsmiling man with no apparent sense of humour, he would heave authoritatively into view to take your order. Before you had a chance to open your mouth, he would decide what you and your fellow diners were going to eat: ‘Bon, for starters, two pike quenelles for four [if there were four of us], followed by two andouillettes for four…’ No doubt he had the best of intentions: sensing that we might be tourists, and as a keen supporter of the cuisine of his home town, Lyon, he felt we ought to sample several Lyonnais specialities. If a member of our party did not like andouillette and dared say so, he would glare at us and stomp off in a huff, leaving a waiter to take our order and allow us to eat what we fancied. On one occasion, a couple of habitués insisted on ordering guinea fowl (pintade), which was on the menu that day. This so enraged Violet that he disappeared into the kitchen, re-emerging a few moments later with a raw guinea fowl, which he hurled at their table, yelling ‘Okay, here’s your bloody pintade’. However, the food at Violet’s restaurant was so good that one would grit one’s teeth and return again and again to brave the ordeal of Aux Lyonnais and its patron, described in one guide book as ‘both unbearable and irreplaceable’. A year or two later, I heard the sad news that Daniel Violet had died suddenly while taking an order – presumably of apoplexy.

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