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Tripe is the muscular lining of beef stomach (can also be from sheep or pigs, but rarely). It comes in 4 types: the fat part of the first belly (called gras double in France), and three different sections of the honeycomb (the second stomach of the cow)--light, dark, and the partial honeycomb of the 2nd belly's extreme end.
One thing is sure, this delectable, gelatinous, and blonde membrane--celebrated by Homer and by Rabelais--is tough to digest. Ideally it's cooked some 12 hours. And it should never be eaten by the dyspeptic or goutish.
How indigestible is it? According to Rabelias, so indigestible that Gargamelle gave birth to Gargantua after eating a huge dish of godebillios (the fat tripes of oxen fattened on rich guimo-meadows).
How delectable? According to Homer, it was prepared in honor of Achilles, son of Thetis and Peleus, petulant hero of the Trojan war, killer of Hector who ultimately fell at the hand of Paris.
And it is reputed to be the cause of the quarrel in the 11th century between William the Conquerer (in French history, William the Bastard; in English, King of England, Duke of Normandy) and the enormously fat and sensuous Phillip I, King of France. Phillip's jest over tripe supposedly provoked a promise by William "that he would come and be churched at Notre Dame de Paris with 10,000 lances instead of candles."
Then again, it was shkemhe chorba, tripe soup, that fueled the disciplined Christian Jannissaries of the Ottoman Empire on to their storied exploits--making and unmaking sultans to the tune of their military "Turkish music."
In any event, it is true that, today, tripe is best known as a superb Norman dish. Tripes a la mode de Caen are cooked in a deep earthenware casserole--all 4 kinds of tripe plus a split calf's foot, onions, suet, and Calvados sealed and cooked for 12 hours.