Cow Balls

15 Oct


Sometimes, you think you’re ordering breaded cutlet, and you end up eating cow testes.

My dad came to visit me in France this past weekend! He is great at travel – he loves following curious little trails that look like they may lead you off a cliff, talking to random strangers and learning their life’s story, using landmarks and the power of memory to get from A to B, and buying me little presents. (And by “little presents” I mean basic necessities like sheets and towels that I was too lazy and cheap to buy for myself.) He is the perfect travel companion.

There is only one travel area in which he scores less than a ten, and that is in the area of food. As the French would say, his tastes are a bit… “spécial.” (I prefer to refrain from saying he has “special tastes” because that sounds like something the receptionist at an escort service desk would whisper into her walkie talkie before welcoming a suit-clad dude with a thing for Muppets role play.)

My dad doesn’t like tomatoes. Or asparagus. Or meat that is red. Or meat that is pink. Or cheese that smells too cheesy. Or big servings of pasta that look intimidating. Or eating “big, sit-down lunches” that detract from walking around and sightseeing. Or the idea of eating lunchmeats for breakfast. Or lunchmeats in general. Or eating fruit after dinner. Or trying fruits that grow in the wild and that slightly resemble tomatoes.

Needless to say, most of these tastes can usually be accommodated. In France, however, meat and cheese and tomato-like ingredients run rampant. And in the south of France, English translations do not run at all. They hide, as in they do not exist.

Let me just preface this by saying that I can speak and read and write French. But, I am not a lingual God. I do not know every word for every part of an animal’s body. I also am not good at deciphering vocab when I’m hungry and excited by the prospect of unlimited bread. A human girl is only capable of so much.

My dad and I were at a really unique restaurant – a selection of Disney piano songs was playing in the background, as we sat in a restaurant that was decorated with photographs of parrots, as well as cages housing real, living parrots. Cats roamed around the restaurant and the bathroom had incredible, almond scented soap. I felt like I was in a Celine Dion music video.

We spent maybe thirty minutes looking at the menu.

Do you know how long 30 minutes is? It is just enough time to decide on a cocktail, an appetizer, an entrée, a cheese plate, and a dessert… it is also just enough time to mentally skim over and black out the words for “cow balls” and congratulate your father on finding a “pretty harmless seeming veal order” for his main meal.

Just because the French word for “calf” slightly resembles the English word for “veal” does NOT mean you are ordering veal when you order the French word for calf. In fact, it means you are ordering some form of calf, and should be prepared for calf’s various forms.

Did you know that balls could be strung together, seasoned, cooked, and then ingested? Did you think these types of foods only existed on shows like “Chopped” and “Hell’s Kitchen”? If you did, then you were wrong.

Cow balls look like meaty mushrooms that are linking arms in a game of Red Rover. They are dense and a little squishy, and I’ll be damned if they disconnect arms and lose the game.

When the waitress presented my dad with seasoned balls, he thought they were mushrooms. “I think I got the vegetarian special,” he said. Little did he know what was in store.

He took one bite, and things went downhill at a rapid pace. I’m not a religious person, but I prayed to every God I could think of that my dad wouldn’t vomit his cow ball all over my duck breast (which was delicious and flavorful and totally disassociated from pasture animal fornication).

I’ve never seen an expression quite like his:


Had he just witnessed a murder? Had I announced I was marrying a Yankees fan? Had Fruit Loops been taken off the shelves?

He waited a few minutes before taking out his phone and Googling calf balls. Thanks to Google, his suspicions were confirmed. And my interest was peaked. What would a calf ball taste like? Would I live to regret not trying one? Should I count myself lucky that there were any balls in my life at all?

I tried a ball. It tasted exactly like what it is…the ball of a cow.

We had a moment of silence to mourn the possibility of what could have been a great French meal for my dad. And then we filled that silence with more bread.

“Sorry Daddy,” I said. “I didn’t know it was balls.”

In the time I’d taken to apologize, he’d already moved his food around enough to look as if he’d set out to devour the balls, but had become too full to finish them all.

“No worries,” he said. “I’ve been rearranging food my whole life.”

Way to make lemonade out of balls, Dad.


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