Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Inside a Michelin-Starred Chef's Controversial Quest to Turn Fighting Bulls Into Gourmet Food

...What happens after that? If Michelin-starred chef Mario Sandoval has his way, we'll eat the vanquished bull. To be more specific, the bull will become a luxury product, elevated to the same exalted status enjoyed by Spain's famous Iberian pigs. And it will be really, really good. Good for diners, good for the culture. Sandoval swears this up and down. Even if his detractors think his venture will only perpetuate a barbarous spectacle that's long past its prime... You can eat the bull. Some of the bull, anyway. The meat has long had a second life in Spain's food markets. Customers at Barcelona's historic Boqueria still remember the butcher who would set up a rolling cart in the entryway in the days after a bullfight, loaded up with various cuts of the deep-red flesh. King Ferdinand purportedly ate bull testicles to boost sexual prowess, and some folk legends hold that drinking the blood of the bull can ward off headaches and disease. There's even a rumor of a mystery woman who pulls up to the butchery area at Las Ventas in a car with tinted windows, drinks a single glass of blood, and disappears. "When you eat the meat of the bull, you're eating a being," says Borja, who grew up watching the toros alongside his dad, also a bullfighting critic. "You're consuming its energy, its power, its emotions." As a supporter, it's easy for Borja to wax romantic, but if you strip away the mystique of the corrida, the meat itself seems decidedly unappealing: lean, gamey and hard as stone until you marinate and stew it beyond recognition. Bred for bravery, fighting bulls live a longer and wilder life than cattle raised for meat. By the time they get to the plaza, they're older and far more muscled than their domesticated cousins, and the stress of fighting leaves the tissues fatigued and acidic. As one friend put it, the regimen "seems like the opposite of everything you're supposed to do to make meat good."...At 14, Sandoval got his first taste of fighting bull when the family attended a tienta, a sort of practice bullfight that gives toreros a chance to train while the ranchers evaluate the bulls' temperaments. "The rancher gave us some toro bravo stew to try," he remembers. "It tasted different: healthy, rich, with so much flavor. The rancher said, 'We eat this all the time.'"...more

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