The next evening, we found ourselves in ultra-modern Montpellier and decided to step in to a chain restaurant: Hippopotamus. They serve burgers (made with cow meat--not hippopotamus) and some standard French food, but I just ordered a simple chicken caesar salad. The real adventure of the evening, however, began when London--my youngest pupil--challenged one of the missionaries to order the weirdest thing on the menu. And of course, nothing is quite as strange as tartare... For those of you who have never heard of tartare before, please refer to the picture on the right...
Yes--that IS raw ground beef topped with a raw egg yolk! They brought it to him on a cutting board along with pickles and a white sauce--the origin of tartar sauce--with the idea that you're supposed to mix the whole thing together before eating it. Of course, London was only too happy to watch poor Elder Gubbay mix up his poison but was definitely not willing to try any of it! When the meat surgery was complete, we all held our breath as the elder took the first bite...and he didn't die!! :) He generously offered some to the rest of us, and after his companion took some and also lived through it, I actually decided to give it a whirl myself... Well, friends, I have to say--it wasn't horrible...but it definitely wasn't good! It tasted like...pickles...and the sauce he'd mixed in... But the kicker was the texture: mushy, cold, and pretty much exactly like you'd expect raw meatloaf to feel in your mouth. Bleh. Much like eating escargot, I'd say only eat that one if you want to brag to your friends that you did it!
I was much more fortunate in the next city: Carcassonne. I'm a big fan of trying regional dishes, and the specialty of the area was a piping hot bowl of cassoulet. It's basically a homey stew with white beans, duck, and sausage. They brought it out in a lovely terra cotta bowl that kept it blazing hot through the whole evening and they proudly dished it out for me onto a plate, explaining each aspect of the stew. The French are extremely proud of their regional meals, and this one sincerely got a general stamp of approval! Besides, after forays into raw meat, we were all happy to see something a bit more normal.
And how have we finished our two weeks of touring? In terms of food, we somehow wound up back in the states by stopping in at Buffalo Grill--a ridiculously barnlike restaurant topped with gigantic, white buffalo horns. Our placemats were covered with pictures of cowboys and random redrocks from Southern Utah, and as for the menu...well, let's just say it was a fun visit to the European idea of American West cooking! (The chili was...bland...but the ribs were at least pretty good!) In the end, however, the food was not as fun as seeing all the boys act like...well...boys. (For anyone who wonders, these were their best mean indian chief faces...) Definitely a sign that we've all been having a ridiculous amount of fun!