The Soul of France
February 20, 2008 7:04 PM Subscribe
Flirting with the Forbidden, for centuries, Romans and French have enjoyed the pleasures of a unique songbird. Once caught, this tiny bunting is kept in a small cage, where its eyes are poked out. It is then force fed oats, millet, and figs until it's plumped up to four times its size. It is subsequently drowned alive in cognac, roasted at high heat, then served as an exquisite - and illegal - meal. Traditionally the diner enjoys this delicacy - approximately the size of a human thumb - underneath an embroidered napkin. The head is bitten off, the entire body eaten in one crunchy bite. Said to embody the "soul of France," it was, reportedly, the last meal of Francois Mitterrand. Writer Michael Paterniti recreates the experience of dining on l'ortolan, superbly told in an episode of "This American Life."
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