Dying of cancer, Francois Mitterrand ordered a last meal of:
- Foie gras
L’Ortolan is the eating of an Ortolan bird, a tiny, yellow-throated songbird that is illegal to eat in France. The bird is roasted and eaten bones and all. L’Ortolan recipe is as follows:
Preparation: The birds must be taken alive; once captured their eyes are either poked out or kept in a lightless box for a month to gorge on millet, grapes, and figs, a technique taken from the decadent cooks of Imperial Rome who called the birds beccafico, or ‘fig-pecker’; disoriented by the darkness, they eat for 24 hours a day.
When they’ve reached four times their normal size, they’re drowned in a snifter of Armagnac.
Cooking: Simply pop them in a high oven for six to eight minutes and serve. Place a napkin or cloth over your head. This large napkin is used for the gourmet’s aesthetic desire to absorb the maximum odor with the flavor. It is also to cover your shame and gluttony from God.
Eating: When cool, begin to chew. Put the whole bird in your mouth, with only its beak protruding slightly from your lips. It should take about 15 minutes to work your way through the breast and wings, the delicately crackling bones, and onto 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.
Savor the intermingling flavors of fat, blood and guts. Do not panic when the bird’s small, delicate bones begin to cut into your gums - you are actually supposed to slightly bleed, so as to fully drive home the decadence of what you have done.
Enjoy with a good Bordeaux wine.