Last Wednesday the California culinary scene celebrated when a federal judge overturned the statewide ban on foie gras that has been in effect since 2012. The decision to lift the ban wasn’t a judgment about whether the practice of force feeding fowl to fatten their livers before killing them for food is animal cruelty or not. It has to do with state versus federal jurisdiction over food products.
When the ban was lifted the Cute Gardener and I had a conversation on the couch, pause button pressed on whatever we had been doing at the moment as we are prone to do during intense discussions post-dinner in our home, about the level of outrage foie gras has provoked in our society. News of activists outside of French restaurants and deli counters and meat distribution businesses still refusing to sell foie on principle abounded over the past week. Our questions weren’t geared toward the hardcore vegans or vegetarians or the people who already think meat is murder, but to the people who generally eat meat. Why are they so inflamed about the treatment of ducks and geese in the making of foie gras, when they regularly sit down to meals of chicken, turkey or beef? Turkeys have been so overly stuffed that they are too heavy to fly. Chickens are packed into cubicles and given growth hormones. Kobe beef is grazed until veins of marbled fat become so entrenched in their flesh that it is almost impossible to discern pink from red in the meat.
It seems like the true question at hand for those people should be whether or not they eat meat at all? If you eat meat, it seems rather morbid to try and discern what types of killing are better than others? If you eat meat because of its historical precedence in the societal food chain, then it doesn’t seem like you have much room to spout off on either side of the humane treatment of animals debate. Which is why I stay out of it. My diet is not overloaded in meat but I do factor pork, beef, chicken, lamb and turkey protein into my balanced palate on a permanent basis. I try to source sustainable meat whenever possible because I don’t want an assortment of foreign chemicals in my body and won’t go out of my way to expend major amounts of energy procuring meat otherwise.
For the past three years, the Cute Gardener has been enjoying his foie on business trips to New York City. Alas, I have not been so fortunate as the life of an artist and writer does not afford me the luxury to accompany him on those trips. Last night, we stopped into Petrossian after a Moroccan dinner at Tagine looking for a special dessert of vodka and caviar. Instead we found a new special menu of six types of foie gras (and later learned there was a special seared “off menu” item as well). We were one of three couples left in the small, pristine white dining room after nine and as we sliced off bits of foie studded with truffles and enjoyed the pursuant cold, creaminess in our mouths, I couldn’t help but wonder how many restaurants across Los Angeles were currently serving more dishes of foie today than they had ever imagined before the ban. And if that kind of backfiring momentum isn’t the true misfortunate side effect of good intentions that aim to tip our natural balances from one side to another.
P.S. After posting this, one reader sent me this wonderful NPR piece with a look at an alternate foie approach which presents good food for thought.