Tuesday, March 16, 2021

A horse butcher in Paris


Monsieur Jacques Leban owns and runs Boucherie Chevaline at 89 rue Cambronne in Paris. Situated in the 15th arrondissement on a busy shopping street he has a stalwart clientele and received the Viande 1er choix, a prestigious medal for quality meat.
Yes, French people still eat horse meat. While I'm a vegetarian and avoid butcher shops, his business is part of a past that I write about.  There's a history here and you can see below the old milk cans - when the dairy cart and later truck would bring in fresh milk from dairies just outside Paris. Also hanging are the leather horse collars - perhaps used for teams of horses - that led carriages, delivered coal, vegetables, furniture and you name it before cars and trucks. 
Here is Monsieur Leban leaning over his chopping counter, preparing cuts of meat
Notice the meat hook that a side of beef or cow would hang on.
There was a crowd of shoppers and he was busy; taking orders, cutting and whacking, then tying up the order with white waxed paper and string. Old School.

I came back another day when he found time to give me five minutes. He expressed no surprise that I wanted to know his and his shop's history.  He'd worked in the abbatoir - not far away - butcher house that is now Parc Georges Brassens. He remembers as a young man the cattle coming in to Paris on the train via le petit ceinture, an abandoned rail track and cattle getting nervous from the smell of blood. How people ate fresh meat, vegetables and fruits and shopped every day. I didn't ask his age, but he works daily in the shop and looks in his 80's or 90's. He said that when he started as a horse butcher there were five hundred or so. Then it went down to about forty. Now it's only horse butchers including him in Paris. 

Monsieur Leban didn't know it but he became pivotal for a plot point and quite saucy - no pun intended - in my next book. I hope when I can get back to Paris, to give him a copy! Most of all I hope he'll still be there.

Cara - Tuesday 


  1. Actually, I did not realize they still eat horse in France. But they don't raise horses for their meat, I'm presuming? Horse lover here, so it's a little cringey for me!

  2. You left out "ten" in the next-to-last paragraph, if I read your note on the card properly.

  3. I love these out-of-the-way, unusual shops in Paris.

  4. Tres interesting, Cara, but tonight I think I'll have fish.

    1. Fascinating history, I lived in France in the 1990's, and there was a boucherie chevaline just across the road from the French family I stayed with for a while. I regularly ran errands to this shop and others.

      They family I lived with had a very varied diet, grew all their own veg, etc and kept chickens, etc. The lady of the house Colette once handed me a live chicken to wring its neck and pluck it! Bit of a shock for a city gal from Northern Ireland.

      I soon learnt nothing goes to waste in France, they lived a much more genuine life close to the soil / earth and some of the memories and food I tasted there will stay with me forever ....