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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."
posted by Dr. Zira (141 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
You just have to wonder, who was the first person to think to themselves, "What if I caught one of those little bunting things, poked its eyes out, force fed it oats, millet and figs until it was four times as big as it is now, then drowned it in cognac, roasted it and ate it? I wonder if that would taste good?"
posted by Naberius at 7:08 PM on February 20, 2008 [18 favorites]


Makes me want to watch "The Freshman".
posted by HuronBob at 7:12 PM on February 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Makes me want to tire-iron some heads.
posted by maxwelton at 7:17 PM on February 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


Man, and I thought it was an inexplicable wonder that people Way Back When said "hey, I'm going to eat that chunky old milk, and if it doesn't taste good, damn it, I'll try again until it does" or "maybe if I soak this bitter, inedible olive in brine or lye (!) for a while, I'll be able to eat it."

How many other birds just didn't make the cut for this dish before finding that special songbird? Will the world ever know? Is there some other bird out there, as yet unblinded, unfattened, and undrowned, that might eclipse the modern recipe's brilliance?

Anyone?

Bueller?
posted by lumensimus at 7:18 PM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


YouTube link to Jeremy Clarkson eating one on "Meet the Neighbors."
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:23 PM on February 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


Excellent post!

(why do they have to blind the little buggers, though? that does seem gratuitously cruel.)
posted by jason's_planet at 7:25 PM on February 20, 2008


Yeah, how did they pick this one particular bird? Is there any reason you can't just go catch a common finch or something and do the same?

Not that I'm going to, I mean.
posted by echo target at 7:26 PM on February 20, 2008


"the diner draped his head with a linen napkin to preserve the precious aromas and, some believe, to hide from God" (W)

Yeah, you better hide. Not one of them shall fall to the ground without your Father.
posted by Paragon at 7:26 PM on February 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm feeling a little snacky. But really, I'd prefer the oats, millet, and figs I think.
posted by mrmojoflying at 7:28 PM on February 20, 2008


wow

dont think I have seen anything so ridiculously cruel and useless in my life.

Loves me steaks etc here, but this is just stupid.

worst of the web, worst of the blue.

its one thing to post it, but damned if I wouldnt like to hear from one person who has actuallyy eaten one, and explain to us all how their two bites were worth this kind of insane, and intentional torture of a living thing.
posted by timsteil at 7:30 PM on February 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


I once directed a TV exposé of a very high class restaurant where the staff were being abused. We put sous chefs wearing hidden cameras into the kitchen.

The name?

Yeah, you got it.
posted by unSane at 7:33 PM on February 20, 2008


It's got to be more for traditional reasons than for any practical one that they have to use this particular bird. All poultry tastes pretty much the same, it's how it's prepared that matters.

I'd like to see an experiment to prove my assumption. "Tonight, we're secretly replacing Pierre's regular l'ortolan with Folger's Finch. Let's watch..."

BTW, between this and foie gras, the French have come up with some ridiculously fucking sadistic cuisine. WTF, France? Does it taste better if it suffers horrendously?
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:34 PM on February 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


I imagine people like this would have enjoyed feasting on the last of the passenger pigeons.

Of course, in my imagination they would also have choked to death on the bones, but you get my point.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:37 PM on February 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


found this.....

""If guilt is a flavour, and it definitely is, then l'ortolan is one of the world's greatest dishes. The lemon-coloured songbirds, called buntings in English, originally appeared in French songs as symbols of innocence and the love of Jesus. Then a tribe near Bordeaux began trapping them as they migrated south to Africa, pulling them out of the sky with little wooden traps called matoles hidden high in the treetops.

The birds must be taken alive; once captured they are either blinded or kept in a lightless box for a month to gorge on millet, grapes, and figs, a technique apparently taken from the decadent cooks of Imperial Rome who called the birds beccafico, or 'fig-pecker'. When they've reached four times their normal size, they're drowned in a snifter of Armagnac.

This sadistic mise en scene has transformed the bird from a symbol of innocence to an act of gluttony symbolic of the fall from grace. In Collette's novel Gigi, for instance, the tomboyish main character prepares for her entry into polite society with lessons in the correct way to eat lobsters and boiled eggs. When she begins training to be a courtesan, however, she is said to be 'learning how to eat the ortolan'. Not that it was only courtesans who indulged. The tradition of covering one's head while eating the bird was supposedly started by a soft-bellied priest trying to hide his sadistic gluttony from God.

Cooking l'ortolan is simplicity itself. Simply pop them in a high oven for six to eight minutes and serve. The secret is entirely in the eating. First you cover your head with a traditional embroidered cloth. Then place the entire four-ounce bird into your mouth. Only its head should dangle out from between your lips. Bite off the head and discard. L'ortolan should be served immediately; it is meant to be so hot that you must rest it on your tongue while inhaling rapidly through your mouth. This cools the bird, but its real purpose is to force you to allow its ambrosial fat to cascade freely down your throat.

When cool, begin to chew. It should take about 15 minutes to work your way through the breast and wings, the delicately crackling bones, and on to the inner organs. Devotees claim they can taste the bird's entire life as they chew in the darkness: the wheat of Morocco, the salt air of the Mediterranean, the lavender of Provence. The pea-sized lungs and heart, saturated with Armagnac from its drowning, are said to burst in a liqueur-scented flower on the diner's tongue. Enjoy with a good Bordeaux.

What could be more delicious? Nothing, according to initiates, who compare the banning of the ortolan to the death of French culture and continue to eat them at the risk of being fined thousands of pounds.

'It is a most incredible thing -- delicious,' says Jean-Louis Palladin, a French chef who once smuggled 400 ortolans into the United States for a dinner at his restaurant in Washington's Watergate Hotel (he hid them from customs in a box of nappies). Palladin sneers at the idea that the covering of the diner's head is to hide their shame from God.

'Shame? Mais non! It is for concentrating on the fat going down the throat. It is really like you are praying, see? Like when you take the Mass into your mouth from the priest's hand in church and you think about God. Now that is what eating l'ortolan is really most like.'" "
posted by HuronBob at 7:39 PM on February 20, 2008 [22 favorites]


This cools the bird, but its real purpose is to force you to allow its ambrosial fat to cascade freely down your throat.

"Ambrosial fat." That certainly paints a picture. Now I know what to name my [heretofore fictional] band.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:43 PM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Meh. I can't imagine this is happening on any sort of large scale. Not like, say, 143 million pounds of beef in scale. A few birds suffer here, a few cows suffer there, etcetera.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:46 PM on February 20, 2008


@jason's planet-I'm curious too. Do any of the links explain why they have to blind the bird?

The eyes popping out of the head when you bite would seem delicious.

"It was one of the great moments of my life"

No offense to "foodies," but how embarrassing is that?
posted by mrgrimm at 7:49 PM on February 20, 2008


I declare this little eyes-poked-out, force-fed songbird: DELICIOUS!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 7:50 PM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, is it illegal to eat human flesh? Now *that's* flirting with the forbidden. The other stuff is just flaunting humane or health/infestation laws.

FWIW, I had jamon ibérico a few weekends ago. Yes, it was expensive.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:52 PM on February 20, 2008


Also, I suspect few are those who will happily crunch bones, slurp entrails, and enjoy liquid fat running down their throats.

That, or I'm the odd duck out.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:53 PM on February 20, 2008


@jason's planet-I'm curious too. Do any of the links explain why they have to blind the bird?

mrgrimm: The Jeremy Clarkson YouTube link above explains that; they don't mention the blinding, but they talk about keeping it in a black box to feed it. Apparently, they eat more if they think it's night.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:53 PM on February 20, 2008


Less cruel than battery chickens laying eggs I'd guess.

Besides it's bizarre to create a continuum of cruelty with which you need to place your meal on to see if it's acceptable. Somehow weighing the perverse logic of if a feedlot raised cow is less cruel than a food gorged fowl before enjoying it seems kinda sick and sadistic.

All meat is cruel. If you can't accept that you should be a joyless vegetarian. Otherwise recognize that you're implicit in the cruelty, and endevour to enjoy the meal.

Plus drowning food in Armanac sound delicious.
posted by Keith Talent at 7:53 PM on February 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Imagine Mitterand's surprise at being condemned to a purgatory where he was blinded, stuffed full of oat, figs and millet, fattened up, drowned in liquor and then eaten by giant buntings, his head poking out of their beaks as the ambrosial fat dripped down their throats.

WTF France, indeed.
posted by unSane at 7:56 PM on February 20, 2008 [17 favorites]


unsane, replace the bird-food with decadent french cuisine and it sounds like how I'd want my maker to un-make me.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:04 PM on February 20, 2008


Apparently, they eat more if they think it's night.

I see. OK, thanks.
posted by jason's_planet at 8:09 PM on February 20, 2008


unsane, replace the bird-food with decadent french cuisine and it sounds like how I'd want my maker to un-make me.

Actually, you're totally right. What a way to go!
posted by unSane at 8:20 PM on February 20, 2008


cooks of Imperial Rome who called the birds beccafico, or 'fig-pecker'

I think I've just found a new foreign language swear word to use & enjoy!
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:20 PM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also, compared to lobsters, or eating live octopus, it's positively benign.
posted by unSane at 8:21 PM on February 20, 2008


You just have to wonder, who was the first person to think to themselves, "What if I caught one of those little bunting things, poked its eyes out, force fed it oats, millet and figs until it was four times as big as it is now, then drowned it in cognac, roasted it and ate it? I wonder if that would taste good?"

I've been wondering a similar thing about the smugglers between India & Pakistan, who apparently - to prevent their donkeys from braying - lubricate the donkeys' anuses with vaseline.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:22 PM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


It is times like these when I like to turn to video games for answers.

They have a food item in Fable called the "crunchy chick." When you eat it, you get +5 evil points. I think that just about says it all.
posted by fusinski at 8:23 PM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Appalling cruel or not, that sounds awful. Eating a whole small animal, complete with bones and intestines? I bet people only do it because it's a status symbol and they inflate the experience ahead of time in their minds.

Seriously, the legend and reputation is probably the only thing keeping this horror of a dish in the minds of gourmets and off Fear Factor.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:26 PM on February 20, 2008


People eating small birds! Shocking. Next thing you'll be telling me people eat dogs. Who's up for some veal?
posted by meehawl at 8:32 PM on February 20, 2008


Sweet Hannah Arendt, that's one of the most horrible things I have heard in my entire life.

Banality of evil, indeed.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:39 PM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


So..... ehhhhh... quick google image lookup and you can see what it looks like cooked.
posted by fusinski at 8:39 PM on February 20, 2008


Eating a whole small animal, complete with bones and intestines?

Coincidentally, my Filipino housemate had me eating fried prawn (shrimp) heads & legs the other day, shell, eyes & all - you know, the parts you normally throw away.

Personally, I don't know how anybody can be squeamish over any foodstuff if they eat prawns. They're the cockroaches of the sea - horrible, ugly insectlike things. But so tasty!
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:47 PM on February 20, 2008


they should come up with another recipe, though - maybe with herbs - like ... hmmm ... how about basil bunting?

I've been wondering a similar thing about the smugglers between India & Pakistan, who apparently - to prevent their donkeys from braying - lubricate the donkeys' anuses with vaseline.

yeah - because there couldn't POSSIBLY be another reason for doing that besides keeping the donkey quiet
posted by pyramid termite at 8:49 PM on February 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


Joke's on them when the bird flu comes!
posted by Anything at 8:50 PM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Although I kind of object to the characterization of vegetarians as "joyless," I think Keith's point is a great one - think about where your own food comes from before feeling too superior.
posted by naoko at 9:06 PM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


*smacks zucchini around a bit for fun*
posted by mediareport at 9:26 PM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


All of this sounds like a ritual and an illegally exclusive one at that. No surprise then if people plunk down a huge wad of cash to taste the forbidden fruit. You could have served those people rat brined in goat piss if it was unattainable enough for the common plebe. The truth is, people eat all sorts of weird shit. Some out of necessity, some for sport. Personally, when the consumption of nourishment becomes a fetish, a badge, or something to brag about to your foodie friends, I like to go out and get me a Big Mac and a bottle of Wild Turkey and scream "Fuck Off Wankers" between tiny and savoury bites of processed cheese. The way things are going though, I may become really fat and might have to rethink my strategy.

On another note, I live a block away from a slaughterhouse; and while I agree that drowning a small bird in Armanac in fucking cruel, it's no worse than seeing an 18-wheeler full of pigs being unloaded in -20C weather to be slaughtered. Hint: half of them froze to death. Chew on that while you're frying up that bacon.
posted by tighttrousers at 9:32 PM on February 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


*smacks zucchini around a bit for fun*

(watched by ceiling cat)

also, tighttrousers: eponysterical
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:45 PM on February 20, 2008


MetaFilter: Allow its ambrosial fat to cascade freely down your throat.
posted by white light at 9:59 PM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


"dont think I have seen anything so ridiculously cruel and useless in my life"

"that's one of the most horrible things I have heard in my entire life"
I'm hoping those are statements you will, tomorrow, be a little embarrassed for having made. Being kept in a dark box, fed abundantly, and then quickly drowned sounds one helluva lot better than (a) being caught by a cat; (b) being tortured in Guantanamo.

I'm sure the irony will drip from your cutlery as you eat your next meal.

mangled grammars r us
posted by five fresh fish at 10:02 PM on February 20, 2008


Delicious, delicious cruelty. I'm more partial to the still-squirming, chopped-up octopus here in Korea if I've got a hankering to go all first-person Caligulan with my dinner, but each to their own stupid food habits, I say.

It is amusing to watch people get their panties in a twist about this sort of thing, though, as if it's any different in nature, or somehow more absolute-value egregious than (as others have suggested) battery-farm hens, or your average neighbourhood slaughterhouse.

If you're going to kill animals (in person or by proxy) for your food, then fully inhabit your decision, and don't pretend the way you get that dead flesh in your belly is any better than anyone else's. It's all the same tooth and claw business, dressed up in different self-deception.

If you're a vegetarian or vegan, well, good on you, I guess. You can be outraged all you like at the rest of us killer apes.
When cool, begin to chew. It should take about 15 minutes to work your way through the breast and wings, the delicately crackling bones, and on to the inner organs. Devotees claim they can taste the bird's entire life as they chew in the darkness: the wheat of Morocco, the salt air of the Mediterranean, the lavender of Provence. The pea-sized lungs and heart, saturated with Armagnac from its drowning, are said to burst in a liqueur-scented flower on the diner's tongue. Enjoy with a good Bordeaux.
Pretentious bullshit, that paragraph, of course, but much as I've eaten (and regularly eat) things that would make a lot of people nauseous (salted fish guts, anyone?), and as much as the bullshit is exquisitely evocative and richly decadent, it does make me want to vomit a bit.

But like I said, as long as you're not hastening the demise of a species by doing so (now that really is deliciously cruel), you know, *shrug*.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:05 PM on February 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


LOLvegans!
posted by [son] QUAALUDE at 10:21 PM on February 20, 2008


Yep - embrace your inner carnivore. But frankly, the chewing of all the bones and guts puts me off. Just like I don't like Lobster or Crab - too much effort, too little reward. Prawn parts one would normally discard are not soooo bad, if crispy/crunchy.

Now veal, mmmmmmmmm.... veal......

Personally my only hard'n'fast culinary rule to live by is: "if it's still moving, stick it with a fork until it stops - then eat".

I guarantee - there isn't a meat product in existance that I wouldn't try once.
posted by jkaczor at 10:31 PM on February 20, 2008


I've had the opportunity to eat (smuggled) ortolan, but could never justify the price. Something like $250 to stuff a tiny bird in my mouth and crunch on its bones? Nah, for that price I can buy enough quail to fill my freezer and have enough leftover for a couple of barbecued ducks from the local Chinese.

The 'cruelty' doesn't even enter into it. The way that ortolans are captured, fed and killed is almost infinitely less cruel than how battery chickens are treated, and I'm more than happy to eat those when I don't can't get decent free-range.

Endangered, cruel, whatever. If I thought it'd taste good, I'd eat albino gazelle with white rhonoceros horn sauce, with a side of broiled tapir, freshly tortured to death and its screams recorded to be played back for its children. Napkins made from bird-of-paradise feathers, the naked carcasses wastefully tossed into the incinerator. A polar bear stuffed with the last of the California Condors.

I don't care. I. Don't. Care. Sure, I'm being hyperbolic, but truthfully, the more often I hear people whine about the cruelty of meat, the less I care. Eat whatever the fuck you want: just lay off about what's on my plate before I start getting creative.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 10:41 PM on February 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


Sounds interesting. Sadly, the whole 'eat while it's still hot' would probably result in a burned tongue for me.
posted by Memo at 10:43 PM on February 20, 2008


I've been wondering a similar thing about the smugglers between India & Pakistan, who apparently - to prevent their donkeys from braying - lubricate the donkeys' anuses with vaseline.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:22 PM on February 20 [1 favorite +] [!]


Okay, time to come clean. How do you possibly know this??
posted by etaoin at 10:44 PM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sure, I'm being hyperbolic, but truthfully, the more often I hear people whine about the cruelty of meat, the less I care. Eat whatever the fuck you want: just lay off about what's on my plate before I start getting creative.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 10:41 PM on February 20


shall i say... eponysterical?
posted by [son] QUAALUDE at 10:47 PM on February 20, 2008


"Ambrosial fat." That certainly paints a picture.

You have no idea.

And count me among the unimpressed. The ortolan has it good compared to the American laying hen.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:52 PM on February 20, 2008


Esquire had a story about the ortolan several years ago, where I first heard about this charming dish--a quick search didn't turn it up, but someone else may have better luck. That article, refracted through the lens of Mitterand's last meal, always stuck with me. Pretty gruesome, if you ask me.

Fortunately, I live in a world where the French will spend all eternity being roasted by songbirds in hell. And I don't think the little buntings will be so discrete as to wear napkins on their heads to hide their cruelty from God.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:57 PM on February 20, 2008


.

For the birds...




sorry
posted by chillmost at 12:51 AM on February 21, 2008


The tone of this thread is hilarious to a vegetarian. Just thought I'd let you guys know.

I especially liked "I loves me some steaks but..."

Christ, do you think drowning in cognac is that much worse than bleeding out from your jugular while writhing in terror and pain?
posted by tehloki at 12:56 AM on February 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hot bird fat is delicious.
Hot nut-fed bird fat is doubly so.
I can only hope the curve goes exponential.

The only part I don't like is the gouging of the eyes. I don't know if I could do it, I drink to much coffee and am farsighted.
posted by Dr. Curare at 1:21 AM on February 21, 2008


How utterly decadent. Fascinating post.
posted by TrolleyOffTheTracks at 1:58 AM on February 21, 2008


"dont think I have seen anything so ridiculously cruel and useless in my life"
"that's one of the most horrible things I have heard in my entire life"
I'm hoping those are statements you will, tomorrow, be a little embarrassed for having made. Being kept in a dark box, fed abundantly, and then quickly drowned sounds one helluva lot better than (a) being caught by a cat; (b) being tortured in Guantanamo.
Is Guantanamo the new Godwin? I'm not very convinced by these ill-conceived arguments.
posted by davemee at 2:10 AM on February 21, 2008


Give it a rest, vegetarians. I'm pretty close to a vegetarian myself (I occasionaly indulge in a burger, but mostly eat fruit, cereals, grain, salads, etc.), but shit like this is why vegetarians and especially vegans are looked down on as joyless and pedantic. Plucking a bird's eyes out, forcefeeding it and drowning it is certainly more needlessly cruel than a cow's instant death from a bolt through the skull, and you damn well know it, so enough with the HURF DURF VEAL. People who eat meat know where it comes from.

Also, I've long maintained that the cow is one of the dumbest and most useless species on earth, and if it wasn't delicious it probably would have died out thousands of years ago anyway.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:12 AM on February 21, 2008


This argument that "cows would have died out thousands of years ago" if it wasn't for humans raising them for meat is just plain ridiculous.

So what? If the cow species dies out through natural selection, fine.

Being a vegetarian isn't about assuring the longevity of non-human species through the ages. It's a conscious decision not to participate in the needless killing of animals just cos we feel a bit peckish.

You know what else annoys me? People who call themselves carnivores; you eat plants, too, y'know.

Jeez, I don't even care if you peg me as a joyless vegetarian, although I would encourage you to question why killing animals brings you joy.

I'm going to slope off and eat my mung beans now.
posted by Lleyam at 2:57 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I eat meat, but I don't think it's unreasonable to want the animals I consume to have been treated well in life and to have been killed as swiftly and humanely as possible. I suppose some could argue that it's all the same, but it isn't. Torturing a bird by plucking out its eyes for the sake of "delicacy" may be on the same level with battery cages and feedlots, but those are not the only options.


I also find it amusing that anyone would think that a mere napkin would hide them from the eyes of God.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:15 AM on February 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


The joy in in the eating, not the killing.
posted by Tenuki at 3:17 AM on February 21, 2008


Eating meat brings joy? Well, hey, some people are easily pleased and that's great. For me the joy is in the not killing.
posted by Lleyam at 3:29 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, actually DecemberBoy and all of the rather pathetically hypocritical people complaining of the cruelty of this. I'm not a vegetarian, but frankly I'd rather be a bird that lives free, is captured and kept in a box for a few days eating a lot and then killed relatively quickly than, for instance, the life of appalling misery and disease that is faced by factory farmed chickens or pigs. Factory farmed animals are kept in tiny filthy boxes their whole lives barely able to move, never see daylight, often peck their own feathers out or even chew their own limbs off and injected with medicines to control the diseases and open sores that develop from these conditions.

I've never eaten an Orlotan, but I've eaten quite a bit of fois gras in my life (which was mentioned by another poster in this thread), and I've even "gavved" geese to make fois gras - and frankly the life of a fois gras goose in France is far superior to the life of an egg laying chicken in the US.

The difference is that a French person eating fois gras or orlotan is acutely aware of where it comes from and respects the animal from which it's made - hence all of the ritual around eating either of these, and the fact that neither is made in any giant factory process. The people complaining on this thread consume the results of far, far crueller practices but prefer them to be hidden away and depersonalised - your chicken is made into mcNuggets so you can't even recognise it as chicken, never mind see that it lived its whole life with broken legs and featherless skin convered in sores. And then you wave your arrogant, myopic, bigoted, provincial xenophobia in the air and talk about "the banality of evil". When the French worry about the death of their culture this is what they worry about - this kind of wilful stupidity and surrender of critical thought.

This thread really angers me - I think the Guantanamo comparison was silly, but in some ways the selective blindness and arrogance that allows people to call something like this cruel while tucking into their factory farmed breakfast eggs is very similar to the mental contortions necessary to come up with phrases like "enhanced interrogation".
posted by silence at 3:31 AM on February 21, 2008 [20 favorites]


Turduckenortolan
posted by hal9k at 3:52 AM on February 21, 2008 [6 favorites]


Cruel and unusual.

Also, I don't agree with eating octopus. Along with elephants they are some of the more intelligent beings on the planet and definately capable of communication.

Naughty stavros, has Old Boy taught us nothing?
posted by asok at 4:13 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


> Also, I suspect few are those who will happily crunch bones, slurp entrails, and enjoy liquid fat running down their throats.

Ever eaten a sardine?
posted by jfuller at 4:22 AM on February 21, 2008


It's not as if the French have got a monopoly on gross food: gross foods from around the world
posted by houbi at 5:17 AM on February 21, 2008


The Clarkson link describes the preparation differently. The bird is not blinded or force-fed but kept in a black box with oats and figs. For me, this takes the most sadistic edge of this and sounds better than the conditions of 95% of poultry.
posted by Free word order! at 5:19 AM on February 21, 2008


Also, I don't agree with eating octopus. Along with elephants they are some of the more intelligent beings on the planet and definately capable of communication.

Unfortunately, they're also damn delicious. Especially cooked Galician-style, which involves dunking them, alive, three times in boiling water (or so I've heard)...
posted by Skeptic at 5:21 AM on February 21, 2008


I also think that the various cultures that eat insects would not find this gross or unusual.

Speaking in general of Romans and French and other degenerate Eurotrash eating whole birds, the “Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie…” nursery rhyme came about because supposedly they actually did what's described in it. Good thing us 'merukins stick to stuff like veal and rubbing cosmetics in little fuzzy bunnys' eyes.
posted by XMLicious at 5:25 AM on February 21, 2008


Dunking an elephant in boiling water? With what, a cargo loading crane?
posted by XMLicious at 5:27 AM on February 21, 2008


Evidently the Galicians are more formidable than was implied in The Three Musketeers.
posted by XMLicious at 5:28 AM on February 21, 2008


No, davemme, Guantanamo is not the new Godwin. But there's a good chance it is the new Nazi.
posted by Hogshead at 5:51 AM on February 21, 2008


Dunking an elephant in boiling water? With what, a cargo loading crane?

you put them in the water before it's boiling, then you turn up the heat - they don't jump out

i heard it on the internet, it must be true
posted by pyramid termite at 6:24 AM on February 21, 2008


"It was one of the great moments of my life"
No offense to "foodies," but how embarrassing is that?


Embarrassing? Food is really important to some people. What's a proper great moment of one's life?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:36 AM on February 21, 2008


they don't jump out

Only because elephants can't jump.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:37 AM on February 21, 2008


You just have to wonder, who was the first person to think to themselves, "What if I caught one of those little bunting things, poked its eyes out, force fed it oats, millet and figs until it was four times as big as it is now, then drowned it in cognac, roasted it and ate it? I wonder if that would taste good?"

Same guy who first prised open an oyster and thought

'Mmmm, now that looks tasty!'
posted by surfdad at 6:49 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


The difference is that a French person eating fois gras or orlotan is acutely aware of where it comes from and respects the animal from which it's made

Ugh - horrible, hackneyed platitude. I'm agnostic on the subject of ortolan; foie gras etc, but this sentiment (and its close relative, where "french person" is substituted with "farmer") is such total demonstrable bollocks (and a glorified appeal to authority to boot) that it can't go unremarked.
posted by bifter at 7:35 AM on February 21, 2008


Reading this post has inspired me to create a new French/American fusion dish: turduckenolan! To be eaten while hiding under a blue tarp to avoid the all-seeing eye of Santa Claus.
posted by contraption at 7:48 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Only because elephants can't jump.

I thought it was just that white elephants can't jump.
posted by XMLicious at 8:37 AM on February 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's a conscious decision not to participate in the needless killing of animals just cos we feel a bit peckish

That is possibly the most tiresome pro-vegetarian argument that exists. Many animals eat other animals. These animals are known as either carnivores or omnivores. Humans are omnivores. Ergo, there is nothing morally objectionable about eating meat.

Treating animals inhumanely is wrong? Sure, I'll buy that. Killing them for food is wrong? Sorry, no.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:38 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Good thing us 'merukins stick to stuff like veal and rubbing cosmetics in little fuzzy bunnys' eyes.

Yeah, 'cause the French (or anyone else for that matter,) don't eat veal or use cosmetics.

I'm also with bifter, this 'Oh, the French are more evolved and respectful and you're all hypocrites for disagreeing is not only incorrect but foolishness.
posted by Snyder at 9:14 AM on February 21, 2008


Should have a ' after disagreeing.
posted by Snyder at 9:15 AM on February 21, 2008


dirtynumbangelboy, everything natural is moral?

Irrespective of the fact you find my viewpoint tiresome, I'm not making a pro-vegetarian argument, I'm explaining my decision to eat vegetarian. Yes, as an omnivore I could eat meat, but it is unnecessary to sustain my life. I find needless killing morally objectionable. YMMV.
posted by Lleyam at 9:20 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


enough with the HURF DURF VEAL. People who eat meat know where it comes from.

There's a qualitative difference between knowing, abstractly, that the bland lump of flesh you're eating used to be alive, and the experiential sensation of *knowing* how it got to your mouth. I'm a big fan of experientialism - for a period before I decided not to eat meat I tried to eat only animals that I shot, killed and skinned myself. The experience of killing, skinning, and gutting them did not turn me off meat, but it gave me a new respect for the food chain. I think everyone who eats a particular animal should have to hunt it at least once. Like a merit badge or something.

Also, I've long maintained that the cow is one of the dumbest and most useless species on earth, and if it wasn't delicious it probably would have died out thousands of years ago anyway.

The cow is the runted, retarded offspring of thousands of years of selective breeding for docility from the aurochs, which is now, sadly, extinct. It was a much smarter, meaner, and agile animal. Would you judge the potential of a pack of wolves from a group of chihuahuas today? I don't think so.
posted by meehawl at 9:22 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Birds put weight on quicker watching Wheel of Fortune
posted by Rancid Badger at 9:37 AM on February 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


bifter - please explain the appeal to authority in my argument ?

The point i was trying to make is that many people who are squeamish about chewing on "bones and guts" will happily eat, for instance, a chicken mcNugget which is comprised of exactly the same things. They just don't want to know about it. They're up in arms about the cruelty of drowning a bird in cognac, but eat eggs from factory farms where birds are kept for years in staggeringly appalling conditions. They just don't want to have to think about it. It's a deliberate choice to live in ignorance of something they find unpalatable so that they can reap the benefits. This is where I felt the Guantanamo metaphor may have had some resonance.

As to i being "complete bollocks" that the eater of the Orlotan is not acutely aware of its provenance I would submit that it's rather unlikely that many people ever eat an Orlotan without realising what it is because A) It looks pretty much like a dead bird sitting on your plate, B) There is a very elaborate ritual involving napkins and how you eat it that implies quite a bit of awareness on the part of the eater. The ritual seems to ask the eater to accept a level of shame about what they are about to do. In contrast the eater of a chicken mcNugget is encouraged to entirely ignore that it was once a chicken - and once you can ignore that then it becomes possible to treat animals as simply part of the supply chain. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to make their own analogies from there.

Surely this surrender of our own agency and culpability to another authority, our willingness to turn a blind eye (sorry orlotan) and let someone else take our responsibility from us, is not just an "appeal to authority" but a complete submission to authority.
posted by silence at 9:44 AM on February 21, 2008


MetaFilter: as yet unblinded, unfattened, and undrowned.

Nice post, and I enjoy the writhing it's produced. It's perfectly clear to me that our gut feelings about what's "wrong" or "unthinkable" in these matters stems entirely from what we're used to. Veal, piglet, chicken? Mmm! (I am speaking, of course, as an American and from the point of view of my fellow carnivores; I respect vegetarians but have no wish to join them.) Dog, ortolan, insects? Yuk! How can those evil foreigners be so evil!

The cow is the runted, retarded offspring of thousands of years of selective breeding for docility from the aurochs


Hey, I'm gonna get me some roast aurochs!

...which is now, sadly, extinct.


Dammit.
posted by languagehat at 9:56 AM on February 21, 2008


resulting emotionally invalidating environment prmotes psychosis leading to Oedipism & a tender, obese bird.
posted by Rancid Badger at 9:57 AM on February 21, 2008


Regarding the chicken versus the orlotan, I'd like to propose an argument that has yet to be brought forth:

But songbirds are CUTE!!!!!! *looks gleefully at chickadees outside window*



OK, back to my omelet, thanks.
posted by NikitaNikita at 10:38 AM on February 21, 2008


Vegetarian turns up in a food thread & bores everybody to death with ancient & trite explanations of why they are morally superior. News at 11.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:59 AM on February 21, 2008


I think everyone who eats a particular animal should have to hunt it at least once.

I think everyone who eats a particular vegetable should have to grow it at least once, and not be allowed to eat it until they do.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 11:18 AM on February 21, 2008


The best thing about this post is the link in the first article to the eabsinthe web site.

I'm gonna get me some absinthe.

Unless, of course, they blind the wormwood and force feed it with bird food.
posted by cjets at 11:25 AM on February 21, 2008


Yeah, 'cause the French (or anyone else for that matter,) don't eat veal or use cosmetics.

Snyder, I was mostly just trying to moderate my use of the term “Eurotrash” by engaging in some national self-mockery. I wasn't trying to say anything about vegetarian issues.

OK, back to my omelet, thanks.

Has anyone ever seen the apocryphal Far Side comic with a family of chickens sitting around a kitchen table eating scrambled babies? ( :D ) Evidently none of the papers would run it.
posted by XMLicious at 12:12 PM on February 21, 2008


No one's done it yet, so I'll post the obligatory Vegans Kill Animals Too link.
posted by electroboy at 1:38 PM on February 21, 2008


Ortolan is one sadistically prepared French soul food, there's also [warning not for the sqeamish] fois gras. Twelve to eighteen days before slaughter they begin force feeding the goose, or more commonly duck, by stuffing a tube down its throat and filling its stomach with corn feed. The birds have no gag reflex, but animal rights activists claim that the process hurts the birds, and that the fattening of the liver itself causes them considerable pain.

Korean soul food: [warning, not for the squeamish]: Choi Min-sik eating live octopus. Man eating live octopus.

posted by nickyskye at 3:01 PM on February 21, 2008


For FSM's sake. It's ok to be dump people into one universal bucket as long as they're French? Consider for a moment that many of the arguments in here are coming from residents of one country. Should I call all americans joyless vegans, or gluttunous blinkered idiots?

It's food. It's somewhat unusual food in some societies, but try fried crickets, or a croc burger, or lutefisk, or mechanically recovered chicken slurry, otherwise known as chicken nuggets. Every society has food that others wouldn't touch with a bargepole.

I'm engaged to a French girl, know a number of French people, and have eaten some ...interesting dishes for a ros-bif. A fresh sea-food market on the med is no place for someone squeamish. Some french people take food, and the combination of tastes quite seriously. Some don't. I have to admit, it does sound rather interesting, and I wouldn't mind eating it one day.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:08 PM on February 21, 2008


Sarcastic bore turns up on MeFi and insults someone for no good reason. Cliched in-joke about here.
posted by Lleyam at 3:11 PM on February 21, 2008


Another gustatory delight - Bull Penis.
posted by caddis at 3:12 PM on February 21, 2008


The main outbreaks of prescriptive morality I've seen in here has been from carnivores dissing other carnivores' favourite flesh.

I still don't really understand why so many people can eat prawns but won't touch locusts. Or dogs. Really, hasn't there ever been a time when you've seen some really fit, healthy looking alsatian and wondered how tasty a shank of it might be with some mint sauce?
posted by meehawl at 3:21 PM on February 21, 2008


Korean soul food: [warning, not for the squeamish]: Choi Min-sik eating live octopus. Man eating live octopus.

Like I mentioned upthread, I have that a couple of times a month (when it's ordered or just brought to the table when I'm eating with coworkers or friends). It's a local specialty.

In more than 12 years since I first came to Korea, I've never seen anyone eat one whole, though, as in those videos. That's more a stunt for the cameras than anything else, I suspect. Every time I've had it, it's been freshly chopped up, and the pieces are still wriggling on the plate. They continue to flex and wriggle for at least 10 minutes after served.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:17 PM on February 21, 2008


Really, hasn't there ever been a time when you've seen some really fit, healthy looking alsatian and wondered how tasty a shank of it might be with some mint sauce?

I've had dog meat here in Korea, too. It's not particularly good, I don't think, and the smell of it is... somewhat musky and unpleasant.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:20 PM on February 21, 2008


As with most things, a little payback on behalf of the wee ortolans would be nice. Perhaps the Kanamits might help?
posted by william_boot at 4:31 PM on February 21, 2008


I've had dog meat here in Korea, too. It's not particularly good

I'm always diappointed when I hear stuff like this. It would be nice to imagine that the reason dogs aren't a globally major food source is just squeamishness and not taste. Then again, maybe they have not been bred enough for deliciousness. I wonder if cats taste better? Or rats. It seems as if you could do a reasonably successful ortolan-style alcohol marinade with infant kittens or ratlings.
posted by meehawl at 6:15 PM on February 21, 2008


I won't be happy until I can eat a human baby. So buttery, so tender...
posted by Evangeline at 6:31 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


how do you know? is there something you are not telling us?
posted by caddis at 7:04 PM on February 21, 2008


Oh, c'mon, just look at 'em! You know there's some tasty pickins in those chubby little limbs.
posted by Evangeline at 7:05 PM on February 21, 2008


At least the Ortolan bathes before being eaten, that I could say the same for the.....never mind, I didn't mean it that way.
posted by Rancid Badger at 7:07 PM on February 21, 2008


I find needless killing morally objectionable.

animals get killed when people grow crops, too, you know - their habitat gets plowed under and they get shot at if they raid the crops

---

The cow is the runted, retarded offspring of thousands of years of selective breeding for docility from the aurochs, which is now, sadly, extinct. It was a much smarter, meaner, and agile animal.

but not smart, mean or agile enough
posted by pyramid termite at 9:32 PM on February 21, 2008


are you kidding? those things fought off packs of wolves!
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:01 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Snyder, I was mostly just trying to moderate my use of the term “Eurotrash” by engaging in some national self-mockery. I wasn't trying to say anything about vegetarian issues.

Sorry about that, I misunsderstood.
posted by Snyder at 11:59 PM on February 21, 2008


bifter - please explain the appeal to authority in my argument

It's a logical fallacy ie "French people are better informed about what they are eating so you ignorant anglo-saxons have no basis for expressing ethical qualms about it".

There is absolutely no evidence (or justifiable hypothesis) that the average French consumer is any more or less attuned to the ethical issues attached to their food than a consumer from country x. Geographical / cultural provenance (ie "terroir" in its broader meaning) is something completely different.

You might consider the role of French hunters (and of course those in other European countries) in the almost total annihilation of migrating water birds. Culpably driving multiple species towards extinction hardly seems to be strong evidence of a hearty, ethical attunement with the local wildlife. Simple fact is that in France - like everywhere else - cultural, not ethical factors are the primary driver of what people will or will not eat. Hence phenomenon such as people's embrace of prawns / lobsters while simultaneously eschewing insects, and of overfishing of cod stocks among other things.
posted by bifter at 3:57 AM on February 22, 2008


I ate a ghost once.

It was off.
posted by Hogshead at 4:54 AM on February 22, 2008


Has anyone ever seen the apocryphal Far Side comic with a family of chickens sitting around a kitchen table eating scrambled babies?

It's not apocryphal. You can find it in The Prehistory of the Far Side.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:29 AM on February 22, 2008


bifter -
um. Did I say anything remotely like : "French people are better informed about what they are eating so you ignorant anglo-saxons have no basis for expressing ethical qualms about it" ?

Here's the bit of my text, in case you've forgotten : "The difference is that a French person eating fois gras or orlotan is acutely aware of where it comes from and respects the animal from which it's made - hence all of the ritual around eating either of these, and the fact that neither is made in any giant factory process."

As far as I can tell I didn't actually make a statement that even remotely resembles your straw man. And I have no disagreement with you at all that cultural factors are what determine what people eat (though I find it difficult to make quite such a clear distinction between cultural and ethical as you apparently do).

Nonetheless I'd take issue with your main contention which seems to be "There is absolutely no evidence (or justifiable hypothesis) that the average French consumer is any more or less attuned to the ethical issues attached to their food than a consumer from country x." I don't have time to do comprehensive research, so I thought I'd stick to the chicken theme and research relative consumption of factory farmed vs free range eggs in France and the US : According to the French agriculture ministry France has about 30,000 poultry farms and about 42 per cent of those rear birds in the open air. Around 20% of eggs consumed in France are free range. The US doesn't even seem to have a legal definition of "free range". In comparison the best figures I could find for the USA(2002) estimate that of the 336 million egg laying hens in the US 98% were in battery cages.

I would think that perhaps a good metric of how attuned a country is to the ethical issues attached to their food would be to look at their laws on the matter.The European Union is banning all battery farming of chicken eggs by 2012, and has banned the construction of new battery farms since 2003 - the US doesn't even have a definition of "free range" eggs yet. "Force molting" (starving chickens for a couple of weeks to get them to lay again) and "debeaking" are also banned in the EU. In fact, a lot of meat produced in the USA would actually be illegal to sell in the EU due to the amount of antibiotics and hormones the animals receive - which are mainly necessary because of intensive factory farming practices. I suggest you check out the difference between French and Uk law (and EU generally) and the US and get back to me if you still want to defend your statement.
posted by silence at 8:27 AM on February 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


As far as I can tell I didn't actually make a statement that even remotely resembles your straw man.

That's EXACTLY what it looks like to me. Seriously - what other possible interpretation could there be? What is the purpose of your remark if not to say that objections to French practices wrt foie gras / ortolan are "wrong", by virtue of French people's superior knowledge?

I don't have time to do comprehensive research, so I thought I'd stick to the chicken theme and research relative consumption of factory farmed vs free range eggs in France and the US

Cultural or ethical differences? I suggest the former, not the latter.

I suggest you check out the difference between French and Uk law (and EU generally) and the US and get back to me if you still want to defend your statement.

I'm an Englishman, married to a Frenchwoman. I spend 2 months each year in France, living with French people (who, incidentally, eat on occasion some of the most revolting, mass-processed crap I've ever seen). On that basis, I'm perfectly happy to continue to defend my statement.
posted by bifter at 10:35 AM on February 22, 2008


By "defend your statement" i meant actually back up your assertion that: "There is absolutely no evidence (or justifiable hypothesis) that the average French consumer is any more or less attuned to the ethical issues attached to their food than a consumer from country x."

I think that I came up with a couple of quite reasonable metrics for measuring how attuned a country was to ethical issues relating to their food, and it seems to me that there is considerable evidence for difference between countries and I think I've found at least one "country X" that does seem less ethically attuned when it comes to their food. I don't see how your familiarity with the French is an effective rebuttal of that. By the way, I've never claimed that France is the paragon of loveliness, and I also never contested that french people didn't on occasion eat "revolting mass produced crap" - that wasn't even part of the debate. I never said that "objections to French practices wrt foie gras / ortolan are 'wrong' " either (read my posting) - I said it was sickeningly hypocritical, which is a bit different.

I'll repeat my point again - in the vain hope I won't get misquoted again - that I think that it's dangerous cultural practice to try to escape culpability by simply erasing the troubling signifiers and wilfully pretending it doesn't exist (for instance by disguising the cruelty of meat by attempting to distance it as much as possible from its origins). I think it's safe to assume that the designer of the chicken mcNugget was not aiming to have the consumer reflect upon the life of the chicken while eating it - sticking an entire dead bird into your mouth and crunching down on it makes that sort of reflection kind of inescapable. Hence the ability of chicken mcNugget eaters to decry the cruelty of the Orlotan despite the fact (that i think we've successfully established) that the Chicken McNugget actually involves far more cruelty. It's a "torture" vs "extraordinary rendition" kind of thing.
posted by silence at 1:01 PM on February 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


but not smart, mean or agile enough

Aside from helminths and bacteria, we are generally the most lethally efficient land predator. In general, the only large land animals that have managed to persist over long periods of time in a wild state without being preserved only as domesticates are those that co-evolved with our predatory primate ancestors to adapt to, serve us, or avoid us. In every continent except Africa, our arrival has usually been followed by the elimination of large competitors with us for biomass. Aurochs were too ornery for us, so we took what we needed from them and killed the rest.
posted by meehawl at 1:35 PM on February 22, 2008


dirtynumbangelboy : It's not apocryphal. You can find it in The Prehistory of the Far Side.

That's what I meant by apocryphal. The Prehistory of the Far Side is, among other things, the comics that the newspapers did not include in their serialization of the Far Side. It's not amongst the evangelized Gospel, as it were.
posted by XMLicious at 1:56 PM on February 22, 2008


By "defend your statement" i meant actually back up your assertion that: "There is absolutely no evidence (or justifiable hypothesis) that the average French consumer is any more or less attuned to the ethical issues attached to their food than a consumer from country x."

Um... isn't the burden of proof on the person that claims that there is in fact evidence? Easily addressed by providing some.

You provided a phenomenon with no evidence of causation. I could just as easily claim that the comparatively better treatment of le coq is due to patriotic pride in France's national symbol. Pretty ridiculous, but without evidence it's just as valid as you claiming that it's tied to ethics.

I think that I came up with a couple of quite reasonable metrics for measuring how attuned a country was to ethical issues relating to their food, and it seems to me that there is considerable evidence for difference between countries and I think I've found at least one "country X" that does seem less ethically attuned when it comes to their food.

No, you found a difference and you're arbitrarily attributing it to ethics. Correlation is not causation.

I don't see how your familiarity with the French is an effective rebuttal of that.

You see what I did there? That's the root of my objection to your argument - the supposed "acute awareness" of French people to the provenance of l'ortolan is entirely irrelevant to whether it is or is not ethically acceptable. It's no elenchus, but it'll do.

I said it was sickeningly hypocritical, which is a bit different.

Most of everyday life is hypocritical, and Americans don't have the monopoly on it. When omnivores start routinely carving steaks out of the flanks of cattle and eating them raw, instead of processing meat into a variety of non-threatening vegetable shapes (yes, even the French are partial to the odd saucisson...), then maybe I'll pay more attention to it.

In any case, it seems clear anyway that we're chasing a red herring. Your statement - which I continue to disagree with, and continue to object to as an unevidenced platitude - isn't central to the point that you say you're trying to make. FWIW I still don't agree. There are many reasons for processing and breading chicken nuggets, including economies of scale, manufacturing consistency, convenience (as finger food) and so on. Undoubtedly ethics come into play somewhere, but as part of a much larger mix. Politicising food matters such as l'ortolan as somehow representative of a broader indicator of comparative national ethics is unrealistic IMO.
posted by bifter at 3:09 PM on February 22, 2008


ok. This is getting really tedious, but your silly correlation vs causation argument falls pretty much immediately and I suspect that you're just counting on me not being bothered to reply. It will be fairly quick to research the records of debates around the reasons why the EU has banned battery farms, for instance. It could be because of some kind of aesthetic architectural objection to big tin sheds, of course, but I think when you look at the debate it'll probably mostly be about cruelty to animals. Likewise the banning of common US practices such as forced moulting and debeaking - it could just be that us Europeans like our chickens to have beaks for some other reason, but the most likely explanation seems to be to avoid cruelty, don't you think? Of course you could claim that the avoidance of cruelty is motivated by something other than ethical concerns, and we could have a bit of a debate about that, but is it really worth it to you to be chasing the crumbs of your argument like this?

"Most of everyday life is hypocritical, and Americans don't have the monopoly on it. " - are we going to do the straw man thing again ? Can you find the place where I claim that? A few postings ago you were claiming that I had said that "objections to French practices wrt foie gras / ortolan are 'wrong' " - when I corrected you and pointed out that I merely said they were hypocritical you come back with this brilliant rejoinder. I can't wait to see where you retreat to next.

Yes there are many reasons for making chicken nuggets. If you remember, my argument didn't really hinge on chicken nuggets, it was just an example that you've forced us to string out into a stupidly long discussion. In fact I wasn't even really talking about "ethics" - you were the one who first used that word. I was actually talking about (and I've repeated this 3 times now, so I think I'm probably going to stop after this one) a mechanism whereby one surrenders agency and responsibility by deliberately choosing to hide it behind layers of representation. It's hardly a radical idea. But I think it's particularly interesting as it relates to food, because there are powerful forces working to homogenise the culture of food - mainly in the interests of increasing the efficiency of mass producing and selling it.

As is obvious from the beginning of this thread, there seems to be an increasingly a normative notion of food that pretty much coincides with what is easy to mass produce and distribute. Anything outside of that is often regarded with disgust (not just orlotan, but tripe and offal in general for instance). But there's an interesting weird mechanism whereby people who normally would be disgusted by offal (which I admit, I love) will eat it in sausages or chicken nuggets or any number of other forms where it's disguised (and your saucisson example was particularly bad, by the way - it's a piece of gut stuffed with meat and it looks exactly like a piece of gut stuffed with meat). If you ask them about what they think is in their sausage or their nugget they *know* what it's made of, but they are prepared to buy into the story and SUSPEND DISBELIEF. It's *this* that bothers me - the way that life seems to me to be increasingly colonised by stories, and that we seem increasingly willing to surrender reality in exchange for a cosy narrative or sugary signifier - I think "escapism" is probably the right word for it. And those narratives are, of course, used to homogenise and control - usually because it simply makes us easier to sell to - which is where the chicken nuggets come in.
posted by silence at 8:44 PM on February 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dude, what would you have people do? Starve to death?!?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:15 PM on February 22, 2008


guys, you are all too serious and strident. get thee a bull penis
posted by caddis at 10:53 PM on February 22, 2008


falls pretty much immediately

Perhaps it wouldn't be unreasonable to ask for you to clearly and simply explain how you feel it fails? There's a lot of assertions in your posts, and next to no evidence.

As you have noted, the French have long been averse to battery farmed chicken, and the EU ban is fairly recent. My contention is that the French realise that non battery farmed chicken TASTES BETTER and are closely wedded to concept of terroir. These factors are cultural, and have very little to do with concepts of ethics, hypocrisy or squeamishness about the origins of meat.

I was actually talking about (and I've repeated this 3 times now, so I think I'm probably going to stop after this one) a mechanism whereby one surrenders agency and responsibility by deliberately choosing to hide it behind layers of representation.

Fair enough. Your initial statement was the one that I objected to, and it seems to not be fundamental to your argument, as I have already noted. As I have said though, I still disagree if you want to attribute greatly significantly different levels of homogenisation by nationality. The sausage really isn't a bad example at all - it's a non-threatening meat tube. Do you really think that the sorts of cuts that go into sausages would look less threatening in their unprocessed form? Try getting people to eat andouille in its unprocessed form in france (good luck with that!), on the other hand chitlins are an established part of US food culture. Who's squeamish now? Rissoles, patties, sausages and the like have been around for a long time before there were any pressures on mass food production and marketing. These are all methods to process unappetising looking cuts of meat into a palatable form. Homogenisation of food culture is almost certain A factor, but not the only factor. People are squeamish globally (and in some cases fair enough - the first bite is, after all, with the eye)
posted by bifter at 2:49 AM on February 23, 2008


Metafilter: Filled with high school debate champions.
posted by mrmojoflying at 5:18 AM on February 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


bifter:
Perhaps it wouldn't be unreasonable to ask for you to clearly and simply explain how you feel it fails? I thought I just did. But I'll do it again, just for you. Whether you contend that the french have long been averse to battery chickens for other reasons doesn't alter the fact that the EU (presumably in reflection of the concern of its members) has passed a great number of laws protecting the rights of animals in farming. These laws are primarily motivated by ethical concerns, not gustatory delight. The US has very few such laws, and where it does have them they are much less rigourous. Consumers in the EU have manifest their concerns in law, and are willing to pay more, on average, for their meat as a result. You asked for evidence of greater ethical concern, I give it to you. Short of commissioning a global research program I think that's probably about as conclusive as it gets. Have we finished this now? Why do you keep bothering to flog this poor wounded horse?

You are right that the statement you objected to wasn't fundamental to my argument, it wasn't even a part of my argument, it was a straw man you set up and then failed to knock down. I Just dislike it when you put quote marks around statements that you yourself have made up and attribute them to me. And I like a good fight.

As for whether the diet of the average US citizen is more homogenous than the average French citizen - do you really want to argue that? You're throwing yourself into another lion pit - at least try to take a stand on some firmer ground. I'm sure that if I spent the time I could probably find some UN health organisation report or something, but surely you've been to both places? Granted the average diet in Manhattan is probably comparable in breadth to the diet in Paris, but (in my experience of both) the average diet in Oklahoma is significantly more homogenous than the average diet in the Dordogne. And I doubt I'd have too much trouble finding someone who would eat chitlins round here; my local supermarket (not to mention the charcutier) carries at least 5 or 6 different varieties of raw tripe in addition to andouille - I'm assuming it's not just me who buys it.
posted by silence at 5:36 AM on February 23, 2008


wow, wow, wow.

its 3 days later, guys... your all missing the pig fucking post and the one with the moray eels having alien like double mouths. Let The Soul of France give up the ghost already!
posted by [son] QUAALUDE at 6:47 AM on February 23, 2008


:)
posted by silence at 7:11 AM on February 23, 2008


Whether you contend that the french have long been averse to battery chickens for other reasons doesn't alter the fact that the EU (presumably in reflection of the concern of its members) has passed a great number of laws protecting the rights of animals in farming.

Much as they'd like to think otherwise, France is but one country in the EC, and not able to drive the passage of Europe-wide legislation on their own. While animal rights issues are definitely a concern for many citizens in the EC, it isn't a prime motivation for those around the mediterranean, generally speaking. Protecting domestic farming interests is however a prime motivation, and EC legislation against battery farming serves those interests too.

Have we finished this now? Why do you keep bothering to flog this poor wounded horse?

Well, partly because I like a fight too. :) Also because you seem confusingly determined to defend what you have characterised as a straw man. Leaving me entirely unsure as to whether you do in fact agree with the premise of the "straw man", but don't actually want to come out and say so.

You are right that the statement you objected to wasn't fundamental to my argument, it wasn't even a part of my argument, it was a straw man you set up and then failed to knock down.

Sincerely, not a straw man. The first sentence of your first post read, and continues to read to me as a continuation of an appeal to authority argument with relation to food that is common, and which I find endlessly annoying. It carries the implication that farmers / french people / are so much better informed that they can ram wet corn down geese gullets until their livers explode as much as they want, and it's alright because YOU JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND FARMING LIKE THEY DO AND THE GEESE LIKE IT. If this is in fact, not what you meant, then fair enough - all we do have left is indeed an internet pissing match in a 3 day dead thread.

And I doubt I'd have too much trouble finding someone who would eat chitlins round here; my local supermarket (not to mention the charcutier) carries at least 5 or 6 different varieties of raw tripe in addition to andouille - I'm assuming it's not just me who buys it.

Chitlins ain't tripe - you know that right?

posted by bifter at 12:24 PM on February 23, 2008


Here's the first sentence of my posting : "No, actually DecemberBoy and all of the rather pathetically hypocritical people complaining of the cruelty of this."

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you were referring to this sentence : "The difference is that a French person eating fois gras or orlotan is acutely aware of where it comes from and respects the animal from which it's made - hence all of the ritual around eating either of these, and the fact that neither is made in any giant factory process."

Here's your interpretation- for reference - just so we can compare and contrast: "It carries the implication that farmers / french people / are so much better informed that they can ram wet corn down geese gullets until their livers explode as much as they want, and it's alright because YOU JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND FARMING LIKE THEY DO AND THE GEESE LIKE IT. "

"Sincerely, not a straw man." ?
posted by silence at 2:56 PM on February 23, 2008


Yep, hyperbole maybe, but definitely not a straw man. :)

Look at it this way if you like - in what way does the treatment of foie geese demonstrate "respect for the animal from which it's made"?
posted by bifter at 3:11 PM on February 23, 2008


mmmm - because they taste soooo good.......they must have been made with loving care... ;)
posted by caddis at 8:55 PM on February 23, 2008


bifter, silence, really - it's perfectly obvious that bulgarians have much more respect for their animals than the french or americans do, if their pig farmers are any indication
posted by pyramid termite at 5:47 AM on February 24, 2008


I just glanced in here again and caught sight of the phrase “battery chickens” and had a surreal The-Matrix-but-with-chickens mental interlude.
posted by XMLicious at 2:14 PM on February 24, 2008


That's an idea for the Robot Chicken folk. Another special, as they did with Star Wars.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:34 PM on February 24, 2008


C'mon - we need McFoieGras, something to make a Big Mac look like health food, and frankly the mere presence of such a dish would likely kill several posters in this thread through apoplexy. Just think what Ronald McDonald could do with this tasty dish, and just think of the McDuckFeeding machines they could invent? MMmm, MMmm, good. Can I have fries with that (McPommesFrits)?
posted by caddis at 3:00 PM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Except that McFoieGras would be made from regular livers of genetically modified, battery geese; fast-tracked to adulthood through a combination of hormone-loaded feed & intense lighting cycling on a six hour day-night alternation.

The livers would then be dehydrated & turned into a powder, shipped out from Vietnam to your country, whereupon they would be rehydrated & loaded with transfats & preservatives, then mulched up with ground chicken heads & textured vegetable protein, before being infused with artificial foie-gras flavouring, then snap frozen & stored in a massive refrigerated warehouse until ordered by your friendly local franchise as part of its fancy new EuroBistro menu.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:12 PM on February 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Mmmmmm. Brains in a can, the favourite food of young zombies!
posted by five fresh fish at 5:29 PM on February 24, 2008


Holy Cholesterolmageddon, Batman. That's more fearsome than potted meat food product.
posted by XMLicious at 6:04 PM on February 24, 2008


I've had Armour Potted Meat Food Product. Not to eat, but as a "gift." I never could work up the courage to open it.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:48 PM on February 24, 2008


that sounds like a scene out of Repo Man.
posted by caddis at 6:46 AM on February 26, 2008


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