I do not think there are many people outside of France who know that there are two names for chicken depending on how it is cooked. ‘Poule,’ sure enough, is listed in my dictionary as ‘(CULIN) (boiling) fowl’. Whereas ‘poulet’ is defined as ‘chicken’. I stumbled on this when I bought an organic frozen chicken. I cooked it in the same way as I had always done, in a casserole surrounded by vegetables and 2cms of water to give it plenty of moisture and flavour, while at the same time a bit of roast chicken colour. The bird looked a bit old and scrawny when it went into the oven and did not improve one bit on cooking! It was shrivelled and dry and the meat refused to come off the bone, so I took it back to the shop. ‘Mais, madame, vous-avez achetez un poule et pas un poulet!’ They tried to explain that I had bought a ‘poule’ and not a ’poulet’. The first should be boiled for several hours to make soup and the other could be successfully roasted. ‘Poule’ is the name for a female and also gives its name to expressions of endearment such as ‘ma poule’ or ‘ma petite poule’. Perhaps the poor poule that I had bought was was an old bird at the end of her egg laying life. ‘Poulet’ refers to the young of the species before it is obvious as to whether it is a male or a female, and which is killed upon reaching sexual maturity. When I asked one of my French friends the difference she fetched her recipe book to show me, ‘Poule au pot’ and‘Poulet rôti’ – chicken in the pot and roast chicken but with slightly different names that I had never noticed or realised had existed.

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