What brought me to France in the first place was a story I'd heard about François Mitterrand, the former French president, who had gorged himself on one last orgiastic feast before he'd died. For his last meal, he'd eaten oysters and foie gras and capon — all in copious quantities — the succulent, tender, sweet tastes flooding his parched mouth. And then there was the meal's ultimate course: a small, yellow-throated songbird that was illegal to eat. Rare and seductive, the bird — ortolan — supposedly represented the French soul. And this old man, this ravenous president, had taken it whole — wings, feet, liver, heart. Swallowed it, bones and all. Consumed it beneath a white cloth so that God Himself couldn't witness such a barbaric act. I wondered then what a soul might taste like.