The calf does not need to take such long voyages in order to develop. Its delicacy prescribes more moderate exercise. Moreover, because they never travel on foot overly long trips for them become extravagant. The best are those from Pontoise, Rouen (known under the name ‘river calves’), Caen, and Montargis. They are also raised in the outskirts of Paris and these are not to be disdained; and the area around Mantes is covered in dairy farms, from which all the milk is reserved to nourish these young children, who will soon ornament our tables. The veal in Paris is better than anywhere else firstly because this meat is always expensive there, so those destined to be consumed there are raised with greater care, such as in Pontoise, for example, with cream and biscuits; furthermore because one there more strictly than elsewhere observes the rules which prohibit putting them to death before the age of six weeks. Younger, the calf offers only insipid and watery flesh. It is only at this age* that it acquires the degree of strength, whiteness and plumpness necessary to its perfection; also veal from Pontoise is, at this age, the most delicious roast that the butcher can offer. The kidney is regarded as the most decent part. It is truly a fatted hen on four legs and the substance of the kidney itself offers the ingredient for an entremets under the name of omelette. But the piece next to it, although less sumptuous, is assuredly not to be rejected. Many amateurs even prefer it because it is less fatty, fleshier and of a stronger flavor. Nevertheless, one always gives preference, at the most sought-after tables, to the elegant kidney. There is a means of reconciling everything, which is to serve the entire loin. It’s the most impressive roast that leaves the butcher’s hands but it requires a full table because a beautiful loin of veal never weighs less than twelve to fifteen pounds.
Veal in its condescension takes on so many metamorphoses that one can, without offending it, call it the chameleon of the kitchen. There are few animals that comes to us in so many diverse forms that it cannot at all enter into our plan to enumerate them here. One finds many in books about the culinary art but there exist many more in the brilliant imaginations of capable cooks. It is not only the body of the calf, its person, properly stated, which ornaments our tables. Its head and its offal offer another horde of succulent dishes. We will not at this moment speak about the stuffed veal heads of Puits-Certain, which will find their place on our Nutritional Itinerary; but who has not eaten an unembellished calf’s head, simply boiled in its skin and seasoned with a sharp sauce? This is a dish as healthy as it is nourishing, and which the most novice cook can serve with success. Calves’ feet à la poulette, fried, au gratin, etc.; veal brains under the same preparations and categories; and veal sweetbreads finely larded en fricandeau offer as many refreshing entrées, which the art of the cook varies more or less greatly for his glory and the well-being of our appetite.
We also speak neither of the liver, nor of the caul, nor of the ears that share with the preceding offal the honor of appearing at our tables. Who does not know calves’ liver à la bourgeoise, the most ordinary and densest relevé at unpretentious tables? The caul, cooked in water and eaten with simple vinegar, is a food as healthy as it is pleasing, and encloses mucilage friendly to delicate chests. This dish is a bit costly if one gets it from the tripe-seller but it rises to an excessive price if one has it provided by butchers, in light of the sordid habit these gentlemen have of putting everything onto the scale. Calves’ ears share much in common with the feet and brains, with the advantage that they can be fried or eaten à la poulette; and in addition they can be stuffed to hold peas, onions, cheese, etc. Even the tongue and the eyes of the calf do not fight against the glory of awakening the sensuality of man. Finally, its fressure (which, as we know, includes the heart, lungs and spleen) without being a sophisticated dish, adapts itself to all of the caprices of a knowledgeable cook and can, in a variety of disguises, still fool our appetite and even awaken it.
After this rapid enumeration it is easy to see that only the pig can best the calf in the variety of dishes that its estimable being can furnish our tables; but before pulling it up onto its pork-pedestal we have to speak about sheep.
*In the second edition Grimod adds the word “alors” (then/therefore) for emphasis.
Translation (c) Carolin C. Young, 2013.