Under Picard, Dufour learned to cook red deer, venison, bison. Au Pied du Cochon avoided serving beef, which it saw as the product of a wasteful, unwholesome industry. Although the restaurant did not serve horse, he began to wonder about it. The stuff he'd eaten as a kid had not been good; as a chef, he wondered if he could make it delicious. "It has long ribs so you can do a very Flintstoneish rack that's kind of cool," he said. He played around with tartare, a classic presentationand the Tartars ate their horses, too. Ultimately, he decided that the leanness of the meat made it ideal for charcuterie.
In the spring of 2012, Dufour, by this time living in New York, was invited to participate in the Great Googa-Mooga, a food festival in Prospect Park. "It's supposed to be the big foodie happening, so let's see how far foodies can go," Dufour recalled thinking. He sourced some horse from a friend with a slaughterhouse in Canada, and obtained permission from Customs, the U.S.D.A., and the local health authorities to bring it in. His booth, which he decorated with a horse cutoutyou could stick your head through and get a picture takenwas in Tony's Corner, an area overseen by Anthony Bourdain. His offering, a grilled horse-bologna, cheddar, and foie-gras sandwich, was a test of foodie identity. "The foodies got torn. 'Should I go for horse meat or should I not be a foodie?' " he said. Five thousand of them went for it. The event proved to many that foodie culture, as Jonathan Gold posited, had in fact attained the status of rock-and-rollscant food, long lines, complaints of "clusterfuck"and when the V.I.P. section ran out of food, they came to Dufour to beg for horse.
For Dufour, the bologna was exploratory; he wanted to see what the public could tolerate. He was happily surprised. "They loved us so much," he said. "I was like, 'New Yorkers are great. They have no problem with horse meat. Let's do it.' " Soon afterward, he announced that he would serve horse tartare at M. Wells Dinette, the new restaurant he was opening at P.S. 1 in Queens, and he found himself fielding angry calls from people questioning his right to remain in the United States. Then the head of the health department called him and told him that Bruce Springsteen, whose daughter is an equestrian and was part of a campaign that got horse meat banned in New Jersey, didn't want him serving horse. "O.K.," Dufour said. "I understand who's the boss." He wrote a statement saying that he would drop the tartare from the menu. His intention, he wrote, had been to "offer customers new things," beyond the trinity of beef-chicken-pork. "It was certainly not our intent to insult American culture. However, it must be said, part of living in a city like New York means learning to tolerate different customs." Then he invited his critics to come in for a drink "and a bite of whatever animal they do consume (if any)"foie gras bread pudding, escargot and bone marrow, blood pudding.
Haute cuisine, these days, can sometimes look like the dumpster of a taxidermy shop. A few years ago, Dave Arnold, the mop-haired food pioneer who runs the Culinary Technology department at the International Culinary Institute, published a piece in Popular Science called "Why I Eat Lion and Other Exotic Meats." "As the food revolution continues to gain traction, our ancestral lust for robust, unusual meats is starting to spark and reawaken," he wrote, and provided recipes for sous vide yak, bear, and lion steak ("57°C for 24 hours. Tastes like pork but richer."). Later, he was horrified to discover that his sourcethe owner of Czimer's, outside Chicago, which supplies much of the beaver, bear, and lion served in Americahad several years before plead guilty to illegally selling numerous endangered tigers, including two Bengals; and an endangered black spotted leopard from the Funky Monkey Animal Park in Crete, Illinois. The meat, unloaded from a van into a back building, sometimes late at night, was, needless to say, not inspected by U.S.D.A.; according to the plea agreement, one of the animals, a ligera lion-tiger crosswas shot and killed in a trailer in the parking lot. Czimer's sold much of this illegal meat as "lion."
Excerpted from Anything That Moves by Dana Goodyear. Copyright © 2013 by Dana Goodyear. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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