The Corner


I should have said that ortolan is known as bunting in English. Here’s a recipe and some tips as to how to eat it (which is, of course, illegal – NRO does not endorse bunting hunting or munching) that I found on the Web:

“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.”

There are two theories as to why the ortolan eater is expected to chew his bunting under a sort of gourmet burqa:

The first? Shame. To hide your gluttony from God.

The second? Good manners. Who wants to watch someone sitting there with a bird’s head sticking out of his mouth?

Mitterrand, an atheist, believed in getting a good meal in before he died. Others have been more optimistic about their chances of a reservation in that great restaurant in the sky. The nineteenth century clergyman, Sidney Smith, described an acquaintance whose “idea of heaven” was “eating pate de foie gras to the sound of trumpets.”

“Down below”, of course, they serve Dr Pepper.


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