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What was that weird bird-eating thing in last night's 'Charlie' all about?

The delicacy IS real – although you might have some difficulty finding it today.

Image: rte.ie

LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE of ‘Charlie’ saw the former Taoiseach enjoying a rather unusual French gastronomical specialty.

At the bequest of former French President François Mitterrand, Haughey engages in a gruesome eating ritual involving the consumption of a small songbird called an ‘ortolan’.

The practice does indeed exist and takes place in much the same way as was described by Mitterrand in the programme.

For those of you who might have missed last night’s episode, Haughey’s eating of the bird was accompanied by a rather intense monologue by Mitterrand:

You will taste three things – first the sweetness of the flesh and fat. This is the taste of God. Then the bitterness of the entrails will overwhelm you – this is the taste of the suffering of Jesus. Finally as your teeth crack the small delicate bones and they begin to pierce your gums – you will taste the salt of your own blood. This is the Holy Spirit – the mystery of the trinity. Blood, fat, entrails – three united as one.

It is cruel and it is beautiful.

The delicacy was a favourite of the late President, and it is said that he consumed the bird as his “last supper” whilst dying from prostate cancer in 1995. It is also thought to have been enjoyed by French authors Alexandre Dumas and Marcel Proust.

The placing of a napkin over the head is thought to be part of the ritual either to allow the person eating the bird to better enjoy its aroma or, as described by Mitterrand to Haughey, for the gluttonous act to be hidden from God.

7232074202_6a4092ea1f_z An Ortolan Bunting Source: Ardeola/Flickr

While laws in France protecting the birds have been in place since 1999 – these have only been enforced in earnest since 2007. This came after dramatic drops in the bird’s numbers in France, due to it being a prize catch for poachers.

bird eating second Source: rte.ie

The birds were back in the news in the second half of last year after a number of top chefs lobbied to have it put back on the menu. Alain Ducasse, a man with 18 Michelin stars across a number of restaurants, called for the Government to revert the bird’s outlawed status.

The chef appealed to be able to cook the bird, even on the limited basis of one weekend a year.

Read: So, was episode two of Charlie actually any good?

Also: Opinion: Charles Haughey’s election as Fianna Fáil leader – the Northern Ireland factor

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