Les Incorrects – Le Fooding

December 4th, 2009 § 5 comments

Something about the Fooding event last night at the abandoned Piscine Molitor made me think of this:

“Les Incorrects,” was the theme of the this year’s Semaine du Fooding, and their aren’t too many foods more politically incorrect to consume than horse meat.

Chef Tonino Simbula of Sardegna à Tavola was responsible for the equine offerings. He served it two ways, grilled and as carpaccio, pounded thin and served raw. Yes, I ate raw horse meat.

In this video report about the events, chef Simbula says “People should talk about it less and just eat it.”

I disagree, and I think the organizers of “Les Incorrects” would as well. I think the idea is to consider prejudices we each have about food, not ignore them. On the table were foods, mostly traditional delicacies, that are maligned for different reasons: Because they stink (a collection of aggressive cheeses), because they are high in calories and cholesterol (a butterfat laden kouign amann), or because of cultural taboos (the cheval).

Additionally, each night a different, well-known chef was invited to serve a dish he (no chicks as far as I know) would never, ever serve in his own restaurant. They idea was for them to be masked and anonymous, to serve something outlandish, bizarre or bad without risking their reputation. The anonymity was only hypothetical, though, and I was thrilled to see that it was Chez l’Ami Jean chef Stephane Jego’s turn to offend last night.

The squeamish would have been offended by the display of dead bunnies among open bags of Haribo Tagada candies, and the snobbish would have been offended that M. Jego actually topped his lievre à la Royale with crushed pieces of the sugary faux raspberries and a cream infused with same. Would anyone dare tell him they didn’t like it? Or would we all trick ourselves into liking it because we knew who made it? Would those who actually did like it be embarrassed to admit it?

There were less controversial offerings, of course. Natural wines from the Estezargues co-op were being poured, and the warm kouign amann gave me an excuse to smile at Sébastien Gaudard, the man who made it.

I love to talk and think about food. Each of has a set of personal and cultural preferences and convictions about food, and I think it’s important (not to mention pleasurable) to examine them. Otherwise, we’re just eating what we’re fed.

Like horses.

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§ 5 Responses to Les Incorrects – Le Fooding"

  • David says:

    I am skeptical of horse meat ever since I wrote about trying horse milk, wondering how the meat was, and a reader who said she raised horses in the US and since they’re not intended for consumption in the US, they have many toxic substances in them.

    I find it odd that these chefs who are supposed to be promoting French cuisine are using items that are shipped from thousands of miles away when they have a trove of excellent ingredients here in France that they could be sourcing from.

    Imagine what they could do if they decided to tackle the problem of the seafood disappearance in the Mediterranean, and raised awareness about that, instead of trying to shock people and show how “incorrect” they can be.

  • Barbra says:

    David, you’re right: Fooding co-founder Alexandre Cammas admits that most horse meat comes from Canada. That, plus the fact that the chef preparing the meat tells us not to think about the actual horse, seems to encourage not thoughtful eating, but an “I-don’t-care-where-my-food-come-from-if-it’s-delicious” attitude, and that’s precisely the kind of cheap decadence that has gotten us into this mess.

  • Danielle says:

    What an intriguing event – how did you feel throughout the dinner, and about eating raw horse meat? I love it when food challenges my preconceived notions about what it should taste/smell like and which animals are more acceptable for the table (like cows and pigs) over others (like rabbits, horses and dogs).

    All the same, I can’t quite bring myself to ‘eat more and talk less’ about the food I’m about to eat. No matter how much it has travelled to my plate, there is a cost involved, and the least I could do, as a consumer, is to acknowledge that cost.

  • Barbra says:

    Danielle: The horse meat was reminiscent of beef, though much leaner, with a particular sweetness. I actually preferred the carpaccio to the grilled pieces. That said, I probably won’t seek it out any time soon.

    I agree that it’s interesting to consider why some animals are acceptable to eat and others aren’t. The fact that there were furry rabbits strewn on the table where the lievre à la Royale was being served didn’t seem to bother anyone, but I feel sure that the sight of a dead horse would have caused an outrage!

  • […] Next, the Molecular course, subtitled “xiao long bao”, also known as soup dumplings.  The single shiny blob resembled a pale egg yolk and trembled as I brought it to my mouth, instructed to eat it in one bite.  Sure enough, I was briefly transported to Pell Street as the flavor of ginger and vinegar burst through the thin skin.¹ Cubes of rosy Toro came next, dusted with foie gras and raspberry powders.  The tuna was impeccable, of course, tender and sweet.  The foie gras powder seemed to play the part that shrimp or fish powder often plays in Chinese cooking, a sort of role reversal, giving the fish savory depth. (The raspberry powder, on the other hand, made me think of Haribo Tagada candies, and therefore this.) […]

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