Foodies at this week’s food truck rally at City Park were pleasantly surprised by the debut of La Vielille Marseille, a French food truck operated by Jean-Louis Gottlieb. Gottlieb, a native of Alsace recently immigrated to the US, and his showcasing of traditional French rabbit recipes has caused a stir in Fort Collins.
“I did not buy from any stores,” he explained, “and those food service companies do not carry such delicacies. And when they do, it’s too expensive! It is like taxes in France – you pay a lot and get shit for it.” His solution? Pulling out a have-a-heart trap and a bushel of carrots, he explains, “There are so many around the city. And you must have it fresh. I learned to catch and cook the creatures while serving in the Armee de Terre [the French Army] as a field cook.” Gottlieb went on to talk about his family’s long culinary tradition, “In WWII, my grandfather served in the Division Charlemagne and the family passed the tradition on. To my dismay, most people in Florida and Georgia, where I began my business didn’t like it too much, but FoCo? Mon Dieu– people here are eclectic in their pallet! At first I served the usual coq-au vin, bouillabaisse, crepes and the more familiar French cuisine, but to my surprise the people here loved lapin [rabbit]. Perhaps because it is “locally grown”, but seriously, people here are eclectic in their taste.”
It’s clear for any outside observer to see that the menu on the side of Jean-Louis’ VW Westphalia heavily favors lapin. With such delicacies as lapin a la cocotte, au vin, au sapiquet, a la mortared, to name only a few, rabbit is definitely his specialty. That has had a fortuitous consequence for residents of Fort Collins, particularly those of us who live near nature areas and parks. For well over a year now, Focopolitans have been complaining of the runaway rabbit population, made possible by the near-extinction of foxes in Northern Colorado due to a mange epidemic. Rabbits have long ravaged residents’ gardens and planters, but to the relief of city planners, pest control and the general population, Jean-Louis has dealt with the problem decisively. “What I do is this: I arrive two hours before opening, and the traps do the work for me. Two hours later, voila! It’s all done… seasoning and all!”
Not all Focopolitans are pleased with this development, though. Campus animal rights and environmental activists have protested outside of Vielle Marseille. A anonymous activist commented, “You like this guy while he serves you rabbit, ’cause those things are a dime a dozen. What are we gonna do once they’re endangered? Wait until he serves frogs! Don’t you know how many species of frog are endangered?”
We at the Trib will keep our readers posted on both environmental and the culinary events in the community.