mitterand’s last meal

Francois Mitterand’s last meal. What a pleasantly epic way to go.

After being diagnosed with cancer, Mitterrand spent time in Egypt communing with the Pharaohs, contemplating a suitable last act for a man of his stature. He decided to have his last act involve a meal – the centerpiece of which was ortolan, a tiny, yellow-throated songbird that is said to embody the soul of France. Ortolan is a delicacy, but since it is an endangered species, it is actually illegal to eat it in France.

A typical ortolan weighs only 25 grams and is about the size of a man’s thumb. Depending on the preparation, the diner is sometimes required to first bite off the head of the bird and discard it on the plate. Then, the rest of the bird is eaten in one mouthful, including the bones and internal organs. A napkin is worn over the diner’s head to prevent the aroma from escaping.

Thirty close friends and members of Mitterrand’s family sat with him as they all indulged in this last meal of ortolan. Several members spat up the bird, which is common among first-time ortolan eaters but considered extremely gauche. Mitterrand, in a deteriorating state of health, drifted in and out of consciousness during the meal. He refused to take any further sustenance and died eight days later.

One thought on “mitterand’s last meal”

  1. What a coincidence I was just reading about ortolan last weekend. William H. Macy’s character in “Thank You for Smoking” is named Ortolan Finistirre. Also KERA’s Talk Show recently did a show with a guy in Montana who wrote a book about preparing every meal, including the disgusting sounding ones, in Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire. One included an ortolan with pineapple juice.
    Best line from the Wikipedia article:
    “the diner draped his head with a linen napkin to preserve the precious aromas and, some believe, to hide from God.”

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