A small songbird, known as an ortolan, has been banned as a delicacy in France for many years (and rightly so). But now four French chefs are eager for this bird, which is about the size of a small child's hand, to return to restaurant menus.
The ortolan has been banned from European restaurant menus for over a decade, but now the four French chefs - among them, Alain Ducasse, an internationally renowned chef who has a 3-star rating from the Michelin gourmet dining guide - are eager to have a once-a-year abdication of the ban. They desire a day or weekend a year in which the bird will return to menus.
The way ortolan birds were usually prepared as a French delicacy was to force-feed them until they were larger in size and then smother them in Armagnac alcohol. Next, they were plucked of their feathers and stripped of their tiny feet. The bird would be roasted in the oven for about ten minutes before being brought to the diner at the table immediately. Diners usually ate the bird whole. People who consumed the bird would usually do so while having a napkin over their heads. This was thought to be so that other people would not see them spitting out the bird’s bones. The theory I like most is that it is thought to conceal diners from the disgrace of being seen eating a songbird by God.
The request to waiver the ban is going to be placed with French authorities in a few days. However, it has already infuriated animal lovers and caused debate in France: the ortolan songbird is renowned as a symbol of the battle between traditionalists and modernists. Worst of all, the ortolan became a protected species after it was almost hunted into extinction. Its rights should continue to be upheld.
*Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons