On a brief Parisian foray last week, I found myself having breakfast daily in the company of hundreds of chimney-pots – here’s the view I woke up to every morning from the back terrace of my friends’ flat – with Sacre Coeur gleaming white in the distance. Stunning, but that’s not all.
So there I was trying to save precious time, beetling along to meet a friend, but experiencing serious hunger pangs. I was near the Canal Saint Martin, a waterway in the 10th arrondissement and an area that has been climbing the scale of cool for some time (see my blog of over a year ago). Yet the neighbourhood still manages to preserve that timeless feel of Paris that we all know and love so well.
The sun was out, it was Paris in (late) spring, the occasional barge slipped gently by and the café terrasses beckoned. When I saw one of them right beside the canal, its tables therefore escaping a succession of poisonous exhaust-pipes, I succumbed. One free table remained, there was plenty of elbow-room and a short list of plats du jour was scrawled onto a board – all at acceptable prices.
Horseburger – yeh! Their steack (sic) a cheval with frites and salad turned out to be exactly what I needed, tasty and sustaining, although it was more a burger as the meat was minced. My request for it to be cooked a point meant that it came perfectly accesorised with a rosy inside and a well-grilled exterior. And it was definitely lean.
Horse meat is said to contain only 6 grams of fat per 100gm (compared with 18gm for ground beef), 2 grams of saturated fat and 64 mg of cholesterol (compared to 82mg for beef). The difference is hardly surprising, since most horses chew more grass than processed grain. Horsemeat also comes up trumps as a source of iron, more than beef, though they’re pretty similar as far as minerals (zinc, selenium and phosphorus), and vitamins of the B group are concerned. Altogether it makes a healthy option.
As I savoured my horse burger, I thought of last year’s absurd anti-horsemeat hysteria in the UK, although the scandal really boiled down to the issue of processed meats, the true sources of their ingredients and the ease with which poor fool consumers can be misled by profit-obsessed supermarkets. But how mad is it that there is such Anglo-Saxon antipathy towards old Neddy becoming a burger?
Having slurped a quick coffee then paid, I crossed the canal, turning to take a last snap. Only then did I realise that I’d had lunch at the legendary Hotel du Nord. Well blow me down! How many times had I passed it a few decades ago when I lived nearby? This working-class hotel from the late 19th century soared to fame when it featured in the eponymous 1938 classic directed by Marcel Carné. The hotel became the scene of a kind of Romeo and Juliet de nos jours, with a bit of seedy low-life thrown in, and the inimitably sharp Parisian tones of Arletty – you can see a clip here. As a result, it was later declared a national monument and saved from demolition. Phew, I might have missed that burger.
Three-quarters of a century later, who would have known? As Arletty put it, Atmosphere!