Parisians dine on calf's head in tribute to Chirac

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PARIS (Reuters) - Some queued outside the Elysee Palace under lead-grey skies to pay tribute to Jacques Chirac who died on Thursday. Others flocked to bistrot Le Pere Claude for one of the former French president’s favorite dishes: “tete de veau” or calf’s head.

Chirac was an old-fashioned country politician who delighted rural voters with his common touch and love for regional delicacies and local wines. Some farmers dubbed him the “ambassador of tete de veau”.

“Everyone’s been eating ‘tete de veau’. I’m going to have to go back to the market tomorrow to be sure to have enough for the weekend,” said bistrot owner Claude Perraudin.

It was here that Chirac celebrated his 2002 re-election victory; his photo stands on the counter.

Dining at Le Pere Claude, close to the Eiffel Tower, has become a rite of passage for French politicians. But with a whiff of nostalgia for the Chirac era, Perraudin lamented how the modern-day politician had become too straight-laced.

“Sometimes Chirac would have a little pastis with a mint syrup, or a Corona beer. Now, the politicians who come here order roast chicken and a glass of water,” Perraudin continued. “It’s sad”.

The dish can be prepared by de-boning the calf’s head and poaching it slowly in a broth, well seasoned with vegetables, parsley, peppercorns and salt.

At one table, 37-year-old Alexis lunched on a bowl of calf’s head and chilled rose wine with his grandfather, eating for the first time the dish long-cherished by Chirac.

“It’s not a typical texture, moist, with a bit of fat,” he said.

Reporting by Noemie Olive; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Geert De Clercq