Friday, September 21, 2007


This is a total cliché, but I didn't really understand bagels until I came to NY; I had only had them in Texas and Chicago, so I thought, "This is just round bread; what's the big deal?"

When I finally had a good bagel it was a real scales-fell-from-my-eyes kind of moment (I had trouble with the lox). Shortly followed by the thought: "It is a shame someone can't figure out a way to export this new 'boiling' technology to the central time zone. I guess it's too groundbreaking and advanced. Or maybe the convection oven lobby has something to do with it." And then I imagine I got sleepy and/or watched TV.

Regardless, we just moved back to Chicago, so so long to you, decent bagels.

And so long, as well, foie gras, sort of, since the city-wide band on duck-flavored butter just passed its one year anniversary. Another reminder, as if I needed one, that Chicago is not New York: Norma's at Le Parker Meridien has Foie Gras Brioche French Toast. In Chicago, you have to settle for French Toast with something called "syrup". Step up to the plate, Chicago.*

But I am not one to fret overmuch, and I am thankful that no such ban exists on the ortolan, that tiny, crunchy songbird, which you may remember from the book William S. Burroughs' Cooking for Beginners.

If not, you could do worse than learn about it from this article from The Stranger that came out around the time the foie gras ban went into effect, viz--

You catch the ortolan with a net spread up in the forest canopy. Take it alive. Take it home. Poke out its eyes and put it in a small cage. Force-feed it oats and millet and figs until it has swollen to four times its normal size. Drown it in brandy. Roast it whole, in an oven at high heat, for six to eight minutes. Bring it to the table. Place a cloth—a napkin will do—over your head to hide your cruelty from the sight of God. Put the whole bird into your mouth, with only the beak protruding from your lips. Bite. Put the beak on your plate and begin chewing, gently. You will taste three things: First, the sweetness of the flesh and fat. This is God. Then, the bitterness of the guts will begin to overwhelm you. This is the suffering of Jesus. Finally, as your teeth break the small, delicate bones and they begin to lacerate your gums, you will taste the salt of your own blood, mingling with the richness of the fat and the bitterness of the organs. This is the Holy Spirit, the mystery of the Trinity—three united as one. It is cruel. And beautiful.

And now the sockdolager:

According to Claude Souvenir, chewing the ortolan takes approximately 15 minutes.

Let the word go out: I will not rest until I have watched someone else eat one.

* related: I was always vaguely annoyed whenever I had to go to SoHo for something, but yesterday, sitting in my crappy cubicle in the Chicago office of my place of employ, I had a wave of sadness that I won't have to go to SoHo for something maybe ever again. If you are reading this, and you have the ability to do so, maybe you can go be annoyed at SoHo for me? Thanks, man.

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