Horse and bourbon

16 February 2013

At a club table, a group of us were discussing horse–eating, marvelling at the confusion and sentimentality of our fellow countrymen while telling hippophagic anecdotes. I mentioned a typically Provençal street market in Apt. There had been a group of horses. They were not looking happy. More intelligent than Boxer on his way to the knacker’s, they clearly sensed that the good days were over and were summoning reserves of stoicism to help them through the (brief) final phase. ‘What’s going to happen to those horses?’ inquired an English female member of the party. ‘Well, er, it is either the Sunday Joint Derby or the Hamburger Cup.’ ‘Oh no, I can’t bear it.’ I tried to console her by pointing out that in France, clapped-out old nags at least had the privilege of joining the human food chain. In the UK, it would have been the dog-food stakes (or so one then thought).

Strangely enough, she was not comforted. Half the girls spent half the night working out ways to bring those horses back to an honoured asylum in England; thus did Cordelia plan Lear’s final retirement. It did not help matters when someone revealed that I had bought both saucisson d’âne and saucisson de cheval from a stall, although I expressed doubts about the âne. ‘Every Provençal market overflows with the stuff,’ I said, ‘but you never see any donkeys in the fields.’ ‘That’s because they’ve all been eaten by heartless monsters like you,’ came the quick and obvious rejoinder. ‘Even so, there ought to be paddocks full of young Eeyores braying, regardless of their doom: scoffing grass and, one hopes, the odd apple to fatten -themselves up for next year’s saucisson harvest.’

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The argument grew in vehemence. ‘If you’d eat horse, why not dog?’ ‘I have eaten dog, in China. Wasn’t very good. Stick to horse.’ ‘The thought of eating horse violates my emotions.’ ‘Have you never stroked a tiny abandoned lamb while giving it its bottle? Lambs are jolly good eating.’ ‘No one ever rides lambs.’ ‘Tell that to the Welsh.’ ‘I’m glad you’re now equating eating horses with bestiality.’

Thus it continued, over an excellent dish of blanquette de veau. In an attempt to change the subject, a peacemaker asked why veal tasted better in France than in England. I explained why, pointing out that calves are a) creatures of habit and b) not that bright. If they are brought up in a cardboard box and never learn anything about exercise or daylight, why should they miss what they have never experienced? The mind is its own place. That said, I believe that a blanquette requires a different style of veal — but the graduates of cardboard college do have a translucent flesh, excellent for soaking up sauces. There were further lamentations. One was forced to conclude that three-quarters of the British people are vegetarian carnivores.

Back in Clubland, we tried to define the difference between horse and beef. As is generally agreed, horse is sweeter, but, though perfectly palatable, it lacks the strength and flavour of well-hung, grass-fed beef. Horse is ideally designed for hamburger — I wonder how much beef finds its way into the average French steak haché — but it could never replace Aberdeen Angus. I came up with, I think, the ideal comparison; horse is to beef what bourbon is to whisky. There are decent bourbons. They make an excellent toddy; they work in the right cocktail. But run even a rare, expensive bourbon against a modest malt (inasmuch as there is such a thing) and Scotland wins easily. Like horse, bourbon is too sweet.

I once gave a bottle of good bourbon to my friend Alan Cochrane. He told me that it had been very popular, among the younger set. Enough said. Let the young eat horse, and restrain nonsensical sentimentality. Let them drink bourbon while gradually finding their way to real whisky. For the interim, this will relieve some of the pressure on their elders’ supplies.

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Show comments
  • afndimrdandi

    Caveat emptor – buyer beware. That’s the law of the free market.

    You want a free market? You got it. But if you get cheated, the problem’s yours.

    You want laws and rules instead, so you have recourse if someone takes advantage of you? No problem, that’s what government is for. But don’t complain about red tape and taxes.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7INXRFQ7VVXY4O4GVIDFSXXKVI Simon

      Errm… no. Quite apart from the principle that fraud is not consistent with the free market, it’s now pretty well established that horse only wound up being used because EU regulations banned the use of cheap beef by-product.

      As it happens, I personally would rather eat a decent bit of horse than the worst scrapings from cowhide – but I would rather be free to choose what I eat.

    • Eddie

      So, with no free market – in, for example, a state-controlled communist economy – there would be no red tape and taxes. And no corruption either. Errr…Tell me, when are you doing your next comedy act? (and BTW, we do NOT have a ‘free market’ and neither does the USA – we are plenty regulated and the government subsidises many things, such as rail travel in the US)
      Me, I can’t see a problem with horsemeat. I’ve never eaten horse steak, but when I lived in Eastern Europe, I used to nibble on horse sausage all the time. I suppose one just goes native eh?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1024197362 Dean M. Junayed Miah

    When I used to joke I can eat a horse when hungry I did not mean it literally!

  • http://twitter.com/realpolitikhome realpolitikhome

    Excellent piece – well done.

  • Austin Barry

    Horse meat is quite sweet, so I would recommend a dry red wine, possibly an aged Temranillo.

  • Ganpati23

    If you can ever get a real donkey mergez, it’s much better than the fake ones.

    I love donkeys cos they look cute and that’s before I read 1984 when you realise the donkey is the only one that’s bright and sexy. And horses are cunts. They charge you at demos, ridden by the filth, and if you bet on them they often lose. Probably on purpose. And only toffs can afford to ride them. And then try to use them to exterminate foxes, who are gorgeous.

    So I’d rather kill a horse than a donkey (or a fox). It’s just donkeys taste wicked as mergez.

    Ducks and geese are really sexy too. But unfortunately, foie gras is lush. And the duck magrets.

    So let them eat horse. (But do try to find a real donkey mergez if you’re out in France.)

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