As French chefs lobby for ortolan to be reintroduced on to menus, we explain why cooking the rare and delicate songbird is so controversial.
By Harry Wallop
12:15PM BST 17 Sep 2014
Q. What is an ortolan?
A. A songbird that's small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, the average ortolan weighs less than an ounce. They are neither very pretty nor particularly musical, but they are rare, especially in Britain, where they are only occasionally spotted on the south coast. They are usually found in warm parts of Europe, especially the south of France, Italy, Spain and Greece. They eat insects in summer, and grains and seeds from the ground at other times.
Q. Why are they in the news?
A. A clutch of leading French chefs, including Alain Ducasse, who has 18 Michelin stars in total across his many restaurants, has lobbied the French Government to partially reverse the ban on killing and cooking ortolans, Le Parisien newspaper has reported. They say they want the right to cook the bird, even if it is only for one weekend of the year.