Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Yeah, but can you fry that?

Once again, another bloggist prompts me to Google* a strange new word and eyebrows lift over yet more human singularities.

Did you know people eat little birds called "ortolans?" Naturally, it's mainly the French. Here's how it works:

Catch an little ortolan and put it in a box, with plenty of food and total darkness. The ortolan (a species of bunting) responds to the constant darkness by gorging itself, growing to three or four times its original size. As you might expect from the culture that brought us foie gras, the next step is to kill the bird by literally drowning it in Armagnac. Then roast the fowl in its own fat and dine away.

Muster whatever Gallic sang froid you posses, drape your head in a napkin (either to spare your fellow diners the coming spectacle or to inhale the holy vapor emanating from the dish before you) and bite off the head. Discard. The remaining bird is consumed, les os et tous.

The practice was outlawed in 2007, but as with all things it may still be had for money and, this being France, perhaps also love.

This culinary adventure lies at the far end of the spectrum from the title of the post, which refers to an eponymous game invented by my good friends, brothers Rob and John. One year while Rob was living in Louisiana, John visited him for the winter holidays and came bearing gifts -- one of which was a "FryDaddy." John has ever been the giver of appropriate gifts: Once, upon moving in to a new apartment, I was visited by John who bestowed a jar of pigs feet. "Now if anyone who eats pigs feet comes to visit, you have them." I have them still.

I guess John felt a FryDaddy suited Louisiana. In any case, Rob and John are enthusiastic fellows. Following a day at the convict rodeo and an evening of drinking lots of brown liquor together, the night concluded by trying out the new kitchen tool with several rousing rounds of "Can you fry that?"

The verdict? Graham crackers and oreos, yes. Gummy bears? Not so much.

What would the French say?

*I have an image in my mind of the "Nighthawks" diner populated by a club of obsolescents, where the buggy-whip manufacturer sulks over a cold cup of coffee and commiserates with the former director of Encyclopedia Britannica.

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