Putting Meat on Them Bones...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Putting Meat on Them Bones...

There's the beef...
There’s no secret to my new diet.  All it requires is a trip to my local butcher in Belleville.  My new diet includes meat.  And lots of it.

I’m trying to regain the weight that three years of biking, tour guiding, and hiking my groceries up five flights of stairs has stolen from me.  I can hear the, “Oh shut up” coming from women across the English-speaking community, but let me explain.  I have always shied away from costly animal protein, treating myself sparingly to chicken or beef from the grocery store and opting for beans and eggs instead.  A student budget has an effect on a person, from the holes in his shoes, the frequency of shaving, and the size of his waist.  But now, instead of buying a new belt, I’ve decided to invest in chicken breasts, fresh and cheap from cleaver wielders in Belleville.

I was always intimidated by the butcher.  Engaging in a French activity beyond “Hello, please, and thank you” has always been daunting for me, but with three years under my ever-loosening belt, my confidence is at a peak.  Be it the tax collectors, professors, or butchers in blood-soaked aprons, I’m prepared to confront them.

Obviously I'd fry the chicken...

In her book, Lunch in Paris, Elizabeth Bard details the often confusing protocol required at the butcher.  “There is something of the operating theater about the place: bright white light, spotless metal, and exposed flesh,” she writes.  It’s frightful, at first.

You need to choose your meat, let them know if you want it cleaned, then pay for the goods at a separate counter before picking up the bag on your way out.  Intuitive?  Not at all.  Easy?  Well, once you read Bard’s book, yea.  Although unlike Bard, none of my butchers look like Matt Dillon, and I have therefore not developed a crush on any of them.  Yet.

Lightly battered, of course...
After some market research, I realized that the meat in Belleville was cheaper and probably fresher than what I was buying in Monoprix and Franprix, so I decided to take the plunge.  Now, I’m a regular.  At least twice a week I stroll up rue de Belleville to the same butcher and order a few chicken breasts, maybe some ground beef, and I’ve even noticed that the workers are no longer giving me the pieces with the grotesque bones attacked between the two breasts, even though I get a sick pleasure out of cutting through them.  Now they offer to clean the meat, without me asking.  Most importantly, I always get the friendly, “Voilà, chef,” at the end, a sort of, “Here you go boss” that feels welcoming and personal, even if they say it to plenty of other customers.

Along with the bakery and the produce market, the butcher has become a staple of my Parisian routine.  I’m one horizontally striped shirt and a Lucky Strike away from becoming a major Parisian cliché, but I think I’m OK with that, as long as my pants fit.  


  1. awesome ! now that I know you are making a conscious effort to get fat, I will take it upon myself to feed you all of my leftovers. win win for both of us !

  2. Forget the marinière Bry, you're a REAL Parisian. You were called chef. I LOVE when they do that! I don't get called anything quite so cute (or anything that makes me feel like I've made it to the inside) but I DO know how to argue like a Parisian. That must count for something.

    Fill in those jeans!!

  3. Oh, shut up! :)

    I am fully converted to buying at the butcher vs. supermarket meats. I'm really not sure that it's even that more expensive and the quality is so much better.

  4. Oh shut up!

    but just realized that i should start climbing the 10 floors of stairs up to my apartment.... this is how french women don't get fat - you've re-written the book in 3 easy steps.

  5. But.. I just don't understand? (this is a little late) I walked up 8 flights of stairs to my apartment, I would walk up to 6 miles almost daily, I would eat cheap... (lived off a salary of $400 a month, and $800 my boyfriend was bringing home, $600 of that went to rent). So why did I come back to the states 20 pounds heavier? What did I do differently? You must have another secret!