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Those barbaric bastards!!!


I took French in High School. I didn’t want to. I wanted to take Latin or, failing that, maybe German or something. But I had to take a language, and French was the only class with open seats. I ended up actually enjoying the reading and writing part (and being pretty good at it) but sucking royally at speaking. I gots the performance anxiety.

Anyway, that’s neither ici nor là-bas. Point is, somehow, I never mentally translated Alouette until Uncle B brought it up yesterday.

Dude. It’s about skinning skylarks! Those lovely little songbirds! Wikipedia says the song is French Canuckian, where they used to eat skylarks. Check it out:

Little skylark, lovely little skylark
Little lark, I will pluck your feathers off
I’ll pluck the feathers off your head
I’ll pluck the feathers off your head
Off your head – off your head
Little lark, little lark

Then they go on to pluck Off your beak, Off your neck, Off your wings, Off your back, Off your legs and Off your tail. Jesus ke-rist, you people!

Eh. The pomme doesn’t fall far from the pommier. The old Ripley’s Believe it or Not Show — the one with Jack Palance, which really should have been called “Believe It Or Not, Foreigners Eat Some Really Weird Shit” — did a whole segment on ortolan prepared and eaten in the traditional French manner.

Bon appetit!


Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: December 16, 2009, 8:29 pm

Hunh. For some reason, I always thought alouette meant “pigeon.” Which somehow seemed reasonably acceptable (I mean, everyone eats pigeon, right?) Skylark? Percy Bysshe Shelley would be outraged!

Or, perhaps, not.

Anyway. Folk songs (like folk tales) are often more sinister than we realize. Of course, it’s easier to hide that when the people you are singing to don’t speak the language.

Um. Did your French teacher also teach you Au claire de la lune?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 16, 2009, 8:54 pm

Never really thought about it until you brought it up, can’t hark. It looks like the Wikipedia page doesn’t translate the whole thing. Curiously, though, they claim the first line may have survived as the earliest sound recording of the human voice. A digital recreation of a phonautograph of 1860.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 16, 2009, 8:55 pm

Oh, it sounds like a goat gargling morse code.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: December 16, 2009, 9:02 pm

No, that’s just a French Canadian accent.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: December 16, 2009, 9:02 pm

Actually Stoatie, that show is called BIZARRE FOODS, and is on the Travel Channel with fat bald chef named Andrew Zimmern…..

Also, I have to admit that it is interesting that France would name it’s most successfull commercial helicopter after a bird that they sing about (desecrating)…..

Comment from weirdsister
Time: December 16, 2009, 9:09 pm

Mon Dieu….the French have eclectic and adventurous palates, that is for certain; although, I’d eat lark before I’d eat a snail again (like chewing pieces of rubber bath mat, IMHO).

They did get it right when it comes to cheese, though…I love me some frommage!

Comment from Roman Wolf
Time: December 16, 2009, 9:12 pm

Yep Weasel, even I knew that and I only have a single semester of French from middle school. Only thing I can remember from it.

Me? I did what every other kid did…Spanish…

…funny, I remember more French than Spanish.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: December 16, 2009, 9:21 pm

Yes, well, it’s mildly naughty (basic plot line–Lubin knocks on Pierrot’s door demanding a pen and some light [gosh, that sounds like an exercise in a first year French grammar, but never mind] for the love of God, because he needs to write a note and his fire has gone out, Pierrot sends him next door to la brune [the FEMALE brunette], he knocks there and when she asks who is knocking he demands she open her door for the love of God. . .she opens, he goes in, it shuts behind him closing them in together. Not exactly explicit, but you get the drift.) Anyway, we learned the first stanza–and ONLY the first stanza–in French class. . .somehow, all French folk songs taught to English speakers in French classes seem to deal with drinking or bawdry. . .except Alouette and Frere Jacques, which actually is pretty benign. . .

Comment from Enas Yorl
Time: December 16, 2009, 9:28 pm

Jack Palance was da shiznit. I LOVED that show.

Comment from Gromulin
Time: December 16, 2009, 10:01 pm

My God. These people have been blessed with the most fertile land and pleasant climate on the face of the Earth, and they eat garden pests and songbirds.

I’ve always had the theory that the French were such notorious pricks mainly because they have been blessed with such an easy-peasy chunk of the earth to prosper on. Hard work builds character, as they say.

Drown a small bird in cognac, and then nom it all whole; bones, guts, shit and all, with a towel over your head. Sooooo fucking Continental. Yeah. Seems like they would eat a bowl of dingleberries if you added some cream and butter. bon appetit!

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: December 16, 2009, 10:37 pm

Garden pests and songbirds…. Gromulin, that’s priceless 🙂

Comment from Spad13
Time: December 16, 2009, 10:42 pm

I always said we should have nuked Paris and Montreal instead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, But noody ever listens to me.

Comment from iamfelix
Time: December 17, 2009, 1:26 am

Geez, I had 2 yrs. of French (& 2 of German) and it never dawned on me, either. I knew all the words, it just never connected. Oh well, if I’m going to sing about skylarks, I’d rather do Carmichael & Mercer anyhow.

Comment from catnip
Time: December 17, 2009, 1:32 am

Another song we learned in French class was Aupres de ma blonde, a touching ditty we deemed delicious for its faintly suggestive chorus.

Comment from Schlippy
Time: December 17, 2009, 1:56 am

Leave it to the French to make like a two-bite songbird is some kind of ‘high society’ ‘forbidden dish’. Spose it’s natural considering some of the 4-bite ‘delicacies’ I’ve seen served as being some form of artwork, and therefore charging a fortune. I fear I ever shall be non-cultural with French cuisine as I prefer a higher calorie to dollar ratio.

My idea of adventurous is a Bowl of Red (chili) made with a dozen chipotles, a tablespoon of new mexico chili powerder, a large onion, black beans and a dozen small tomatoes. Now That’s a daring dish. (Although it burns on the way out near as much as the way in.)

Happy to share me recipes, btw, just ask.

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: December 17, 2009, 3:07 am

Now I got that stupid song in my head…thanks…even worse, now I know what it means 🙂

Comment from steve
Time: December 17, 2009, 10:46 am

Well….as a properly raised, southren chitterling, yerself, Weasel…

I can’t help but think that you happened upon a robin pie or two in when you were a young weaselet (weaseling?).

“Years ago, enormous flocks of robins were slaughtered in some of the southern states as robin pie was considered to be quite a delicacy. But fortunately, federal laws protecting all songbirds put an end to this practice.”
(The above quote taken from the West, By God, Virginia DNR web page on robins and such [ http://www.wvdnr.gov/Wildlife/Robin.shtm%5D)

And who here hasn’t enjoyed Larks’ Tongues in Aspic?

Comment from weirdsister
Time: December 17, 2009, 11:32 am

Hey, Uncle Badger,

Isn’t there an English rhyme about “Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie”?

Granted, blackbirds aren’t known for their beautiful birdsong. 😉

Comment from David Gillies
Time: December 17, 2009, 11:33 am

I remember my Mother shuddering at the sound of me singing Alouette when I first started learning French at 7 or so and asking me to actually read the words. I was horrified. Who’d want to kill and dismember a sweet little lark? And apparently that vile old bastard François Mitterand lurved him some Ortolan, even though (more likely: because) its consumption was strictly forbidden.

Bloody frogs. Still, I console myself with the fact that their song about larks is a meretricious nursery rhyme, and ours is by Vaughan Williams.

Weirdsister: blackbirds (UK) ≠ blackbirds (US). The UK versions (which are basically a thrush) sing beautifully.

Comment from Allen
Time: December 17, 2009, 12:34 pm

For strangeness, nothing beats Japanese cuisine, so desuka? Let’s see there’s Basashi or raw horsemeat, there’s this tasty morsel live shrimp don’t let those waving antenna bother you.

Then there’s tempura sea slugs, cuttle fish, and other assorted oddities. Then you have to try Fugu, or puffer fish. Hey, what’s a bit of neurotoxin amongst dinner guests?

Comment from jwpaine
Time: December 17, 2009, 2:12 pm

“I always said we should have nuked Paris and Montreal instead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, But noody ever listens to me.”

It’s never too late, Spad.

Unless, of course, we unilaterally disarm because we’re, you know, post-nationalist. When that happens, we can only hope the Iranians take requests.

Comment from weirdsister
Time: December 17, 2009, 2:38 pm

David Gillies, I thank you for clearing that up for me; further reason not to eat them! 😉

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 17, 2009, 3:38 pm

We have a blackbird in our garden. He’s leucistic — he has a band of white around his head. He does indeed have the most beautiful, warbling song — just like the blackbird in the Beatles song.

Comment from cube
Time: December 17, 2009, 5:16 pm

They taste like chicken 😉

Comment from jwpaine
Time: December 17, 2009, 7:30 pm

Enough barbecue sauce, and anything tastes like chicken.

Comment from Sockless Joe
Time: December 17, 2009, 8:04 pm

poking around the rest of that msnbc odd foods link… What do they have against lunchmeat loaf? We used to sell tons of that stuff back when my family had a wholesale food business. Pickle & Pimento Loaf, Olive Loaf, “Old Fashioned” Loaf (sorta spice loaf like), Mac & Cheese Loaf…

Totally palatable and not weird at all.

Good thing they didn’t stumble upon scrapple/ponhaus.

Comment from jwpaine
Time: December 17, 2009, 11:50 pm

Scrapple. Oh, yeah! Ate me a mess of it when my ship was in Philly for an overhaul. Plus cheesesteak sangwiches! And the all-time best BLTs ever, from a place called Blindman’s.

Philly: Great town for eats and bar crawling, fucking cold as a Princess Al’s left teat in the winter (and I’m from Colorado, so I’ve not unacquainted with the concept of “cold”).

Comment from BillT(aka "The .0004572% Of Traffic That\’s From Iraq)
Time: December 23, 2009, 7:30 am

Out of respect for your tender culinary sensibilities, I’ll refrain from enlightening you about how rice is hulled in — ummmmm — well, places where they grow rice.

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