There's nothing like a bit of animal cruelty and law-breaking to whet the appetite. Ortolan, a delicate songbird served as a French delicacy for centuries, has been surrounded by controversy and mystique for just as long. The dish that the New York Times has called "the gastronomic equivalent of a visitation from the holy grail" is prepared by keeping the bird locked in darkness, or blinded, so that they gorge on grains. It's then thrown alive into a vat of Armagnac brandy, roasted, and consumed whole - bones and all.
Traditionally, a diner eats it with a napkin over their head, to hide their gluttonous shame from God (or to politely spare their seatmate from the gruesome sight, depending on whom you ask). The consumption of Ortolan has been illegal since 1999, but in recent years it's shown up on TV shows about the 1% like Billions and Succession. Art imitates life: the wealthy and well-connected are the only ones who can still potentially get it on their plates, illegal, and admittedly horrific, or not.
[Photo via HBO]