A large banner outside the local Intermarché declares a ‘pigs’ hearts promotion’.
Inside, between the soft drinks and the pet food aisle, a large fridge is bursting with them: dark, bloody and quivering, like they’ve just been plucked from a porcine chest cavity.
For a vegetarian, which fortunately I’m not, the pre-packed meat section of my local French supermarket is a veritable cornucopia of horrors.
Displayed in the chill cabinets you can find everything from whole cow tongues – disturbingly enormous coils of flesh – to lambs’ kidneys, pigs’ trotters and assorted brains, feet and cheeks.
Even the unashamedly carnivorous might find themselves having to avert their eyes and march quickly past the piles of coiled organs.
There are items in a French supermarket that you won’t find in Walmart or Waitrose.
While UK supermarkets offer a carefully edited selection of chicken breasts, steaks and other prime cuts of carcass meat, here in France it is organs-a-go-go – every bit of a beast from its cheeks to its feet.
Recently, I stood behind a woman in the checkout queue, who was buying a pair of cow hooves, pre-packed on a polystyrene tray.
When I asked what she was planning to do with them, she replied, tout simplement, ‘Make soup’.
Offal may have fallen out of favour in the western diet but in rural France, it is still very much on the menu.
After an unexpected encounter with tete de veau (veal’s head) shortly after my arrival in France – it was the only dish available in the rural restaurant that I’d been taken to by a local mayor – there are few things on a French menu that can shock me.
Since that memorable day – ‘Eat it before it goes cold and the brain turns to jelly,’ warned my friend – I’ve encountered such delicacies as a bovine thyroid, an ox tail, pig trotters, cheeks and ears on restaurant menus.
The French even have a saying: tout est bon dans le cochon, or ‘everything is good in the pig’.
Even the lard is sold off in big chunks in the supermarket. Nothing, apart from the nails, goes to waste.
Offal, as my French neighbours know, is not only an economical source of protein, it also contains more nutritional bounty than prime cuts of carcass meat.
While researching 18th-century cuisine for my latest book, based on the eating habits of Marie Antoinette, I discovered that in 18th-century France, organ meat was highly prized.
The bits of the animal that are now thrown away meanwhile, where considered delicacies. Calves’ hooves with whipped cream. Stuffed lamb’s testicles. Gratin of stuffed cow eyeballs. I could go on, but I won’t, in case you are reading this over breakfast.
But it’s one thing to eat offal in a restaurant; a whole new rung on the ladder of French rustification to take livers, kidneys or hearts home and cook them yourself.
Unpacking a tub of chicken livers recently to make my own chicken liver paté, I realized that I’d really gone native as far as the cuisine is concerned.
Boiling up bones for several hours to make my own stock or bouillon – something I would no more have attempted when I lived in London than open heart surgery – is another habit that I’ve picked up since moving to France, where no part of the animal goes to waste.
It’s all so eighteenth-century.
But this it seems is very of-the-moment.
A recent edition of US Vogue ran a three-page feature on the art of making the perfect bouillon. The writer even went to Las Vegas to consult the French chef Alain Ducasse in his new(ish) restaurant there, on the precise ingredients that go into the perfect stock.
It is a sign that the old culinary ways are suddenly fashionable again.
It helps if you have a lot of time on your hands, but if you live in the French countryside, you probably do.
But there seems to be a growing recognition in the wider world, that when it comes to cuisine, the old French ways are the best – that old-fashioned, slow-cooked food is better for your health and your hips than the fast, microwaved, additive-packed kind.
I haven't tried hoof soup, but the spring vegetable soup photographed above features chicken bone stock as its base. Pepped up with mint and basil, it is one of many delicious soup recipes in my new book, The Marie Antoinette Diet: Eat Cake and Still Lose Weight.