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California Foie Gras ban to change ways for a generation of food lovers

foie-gras-300x225The blackboard menu at Joe Beef restaurant in Montreal was written almost entirely in French. But our most pressing question for our waitress was about one of the few (partially) English language items listed.

“What on earth is a foie gras Double Down?” we wondered.

She laughed. “It’s like the Double Down at KFC. We take two lobes of deep-fried foie gras and sandwich it between melted cheddar cheese, bacon, maple syrup and sriracha mayonnaise. It’s really intense.”

We passed, but the young tourists from New York at the next table couldn’t resist. “Oh my God! Oh my God!” they muttered between mouthfuls.

Things are looking a little different on the other side of this great continent. Earlier this month California enacted a ban that made it illegal to raise, sell or serve foie gras, made by force-feeding ducks and geese through a tube to enlarge their livers. The procedure, called by its French name, gavage, is considered cruel by California lawmakers, animal-rights activists and a good percentage of the population.

While there are already reports circulating that the ban will not be strictly enforced and a few chefs are publicly flouting it — risking a $1,000-a-plate fine — the dining culture in California will surely change.

Foie gras is no longer an obscure delicacy for Francophiles and the very rich. It is the obsession of a whole new generation of gourmets.

The unctuous texture and lingering mild flavor of foie gras — without any of the bitterness typical of liver — come as a surprise to first-time diners. These qualities also serve well in bridging sweet and savory flavors better than just about any other food.

And so a whole new school of foie-gras cookery has developed in recent years.

With a wink, young chefs like to put an ironic spin on childhood favorites by adding foie gras. Richard Blais was out of the gate quickly on this, with his foie gras milkshake and foie gras-topped burgers at Flip Burger Boutique. Pastry chef Chrysta Poulos, now at Woodfire Grill, made foie gras ice cream to serve with doughnuts when she was at 4th & Swift. The merry band at Holeman & Finch Public House have shoehorned foie gras into any number of dishes, including Oreo-like sandwich cookies they called “Foiereos.”

For many young food lovers, eating foie (one word now suffices) serves as a big step in the development of their palates. When I was in New York recently, my nephew took me to a really fun hipster-bait restaurant in Brooklyn called Do or Dine.

“You’ve got to get the foie gras jelly doughnut,” he told me in no uncertain terms. “If you’ve never had it, you have to try it.”

What a change from 20 years ago, when foie gras was mentioned in the same breath as caviar and truffles and was the sole province of a certain kind of upscale restaurant.

You still see a lot of that in foie-happy Montreal, where the French fondness for this food runs strong. But you also see it applied with some irony to more modern fare. Across town from Joe Beef, the restaurant Au Pied de Cochon famously serves foie gras on its poutine — the Québécois gut bomb plate of french fries with gravy and cheese curds.

Young Californians, just coming of foodie age, aren’t going to have this easy-to-love entry into the world of exciting, creative cuisine. Then again, they won’t have the worrying concern about what those ducks and geese actually feel as they get tubes stuck down their throats and then live with enormous, diseased livers. I guess it’s a trade-off.

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

38 comments Add your comment

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Howard Q. Bikeman

July 23rd, 2012
9:20 am

I don’t support the CA ban on foie gras, but the rest of the country needs to treat it better than donuts and milkshakes and “Foiereos”. It’s not wrong to eat fattened liver, but the feeding process and the delicacy of the flavor deserve a bit more respect.

Id Est

July 23rd, 2012
11:30 am

The stupidity of food snobs knows no bounds. Disgusting.

K

July 23rd, 2012
11:52 am

This seems a bit extreme. What are they doing for existing producers? Will they be grandfathered in? If not, what will California do to care for those who are losing their livelihoods from this? Will those producers pack bags and move to another state, I wonder?

I have read of cottage foie gras suppliers that do not use mechanical feeders, and simply let the geese eat as much as they will on their own. Might it not have been a better compromise to have California producers abide by humane feeding standards instead of forcing them out of business entirely? Restaurants still serve veal, which I stopped eating years ago so that I would not create a demand for a product that I felt involved unnecessary cruelty, but that was -my- choice, not the state’s. PETA’s members made the choice not to eat animals, and I respect that — that is their right. I was a vegetarian myself for about four years. However, I’m uncomfortable with them imposing their beliefs on the rest of us through law. Education is slower, but it creates greater understanding and is the better solution in the long run.

Saul Good

July 23rd, 2012
12:34 pm

Perhaps those who endorse and/or support the practice of intense suffering of another living being so that they can eat something “un-natural” (that does not occur in nature itself) should watch what the ducks and geese go through… here, I’ll provide it for you:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RtWaVp0TGg

sansho1

July 23rd, 2012
1:07 pm

Saul, there’s some question how much suffering the geese actually experience, which is a different question than how brutal the gavage process appears to us. Foie gras supporters often assert that the ducks and geese live better lives than the vast majority of other animals bred for slaughter, and I have little doubt that’s true, apart from the last few weeks of their life, when the force-feeding occurs. But I’m not convinced that they don’t feel pain, and it’s not debatable whether the process is unnatural.

Additionally, you CAN find naturally raised chicken, cows, or pigs whose meat tastes just as good, usually better, as that produced by most assembly-line meat factories (sorry, can’t call them “farms”). Conversely, there is no quality foie gras that is NOT produced via gavage — in fact, the more intense the force-feeding, the higher grade the product. A normal duck or goose liver produces a denser, more bitter foie gras. That’s the difference, and that’s the problem.

Veggie

July 23rd, 2012
2:07 pm

May this ban quickly move eastward!

Brogens Hero

July 23rd, 2012
5:01 pm

I have no intention of ever giving up foie gras. The major producers of foie gras are in Hudson Valley, NY. Yes the animals are force fed but it is not as inhumane as the naysayers would have you believe.
I for one am so tired of other people dictating what is good for me.

Theresa

July 23rd, 2012
7:58 pm

I used to feel a bit bad about the force feeding until I saw a video of it. It only lasts 15 seconds! Besides, geese & ducks are used to swallowing whole fish, so this isn’t much different. I think the ban is silly.

sansho1

July 23rd, 2012
8:22 pm

“I for one am so tired of other people dictating what is good for me.”

It’s should be noted that that’s not what this is. It’s about the treatment of the animal, not the effect of the food.

Saul Good

July 24th, 2012
6:39 am

Brogan… so the effect of being force fed something stuck down your throat until your liver grows 10x in size over the course of 30 days…which leads to many other complications (including labored breathing and fluid in the lungs)…is only something that lasts 15 seconds? No… the beings being force fed while living in horrid conditions live with the results of those 15 seconds 24/7 for 30 days… all so someone can dine on something un natural…

if it’s not so bad…why not do it to your children?

Saul Good

July 24th, 2012
6:40 am

I actually meant to direct the post above to Theresa (as well as Brogan)…

David

July 24th, 2012
7:57 am

It’s a fake issue. It depends on the producer, NOT on the process of gavage whether foie gras is cruel. Done correctly by a responsible producer, it’s a non-issue and seeing it in person in France, I can tell you it’s very different than those PETA videos which are highly edited to never show anything having to do with meat in a good light. In person, the ducks show very little discomfort and the feeding process itself is short.

Also, the livers aren’t diseased. Even the UN which had question over gavage, agreed that the liver in ducks are able to reverse itself to it’s previous state. The “diseased” liver suggestion is a tool used by foie-opponents to scare people, using human medical guidelines and applying it to ducks, which is a stretch and is nonsense.

By the way, I hate constant control people try to exert over others when it concerns food. It should be a moral issue for the individual to decide what is morally just for them to eat, concerning livestock.

Saul Good

July 24th, 2012
8:33 am

So being fed a diet that grows one’s liver 10x it’s normal size is NOT a diseased liver? it’s normal and causes NO discomfort? yeah… why not feed you that way…or better yet..your kids that way…

Bart

July 24th, 2012
9:50 am

@Saul – I also wouldn’t want my children herded into pens and slaughtered, but that shouldn’t stop me from eating a steak. Your argument is fundamentally flawed. This isn’t soylent green…these are birds. You can’t anthropomorphize all animals and expect that argument to hold water.

Saul Good

July 24th, 2012
10:29 am

@Bart, and you’re logic is illogical at best. Animals are Sentient Beings that feel pain and don’t deserve to live un-natural lives just because you as a human want to eat them. No other species subjects other beings to a lifetime of cruelty just because they eat other animals…we are humans do not have the right to treat other livintg beings as if they were soy or cotton just because we are intellectually superior to them. If intelligence is the common denominator where the “law of the land” is decided upon which animals deserve more rights compared to others…I guess we can equate that smarter humans deserve more rights compared to dumber ones and therefore we can sentence them to a life of suffering need be. Also…why not eat dogs and cats instead of pigs since pigs have been to show far superior intelligence and compassion?

Saul Good

July 24th, 2012
10:31 am

sorry about the typos/spelling… but you get my drift…

Negative Nellie

July 24th, 2012
10:36 am

There’s too many other good foods to eat than bother with this because some “foodies” recommend it.

M Long

July 24th, 2012
12:22 pm

Saul Good Go back to typing up lies for PETA and leave the boards to normal non crazy people. You are obviously one of those fringe Animal Rights people that care more about how animals are treated than humans. You PETA people are nothing more than a bunch self righteous false moralists.

Saul Good

July 24th, 2012
12:34 pm

M… I;m no fan of or member of PETA…but I DO have a moral compass that lets me understand that humans will eat other animals… yet by no means does it give humans the right to subject other living beings to an entire life of suffering… if that thinking is “fringe” to you…than it simply means that you’ve yet to “evolve” into someone who has the ability to feel compassion.

Meat is not shrink wrapped body parts… why not digest your dog or cat? Why do they get to live comfortable lives while other species live in the most cruel fashion possible…all so a mega factory farm can increase it’s profits while increasing your risk of stroke and heat desease?

So step up to the plate…slaughter your dog or cat today…cut them up…and grill them for dinner…

Edward

July 24th, 2012
2:38 pm

People who eat foie, and especially those who then boast about it, aren’t worthy of any further respect or admiration. It doesn’t make them appear the consummate epicurean, but instead an immoral lout. I look at them with disdain, much as I would someone who abuses children or cheats on their spouse.

AC

July 24th, 2012
4:48 pm

“People who eat foie, and especially those who then boast about it, aren’t worthy of any further respect or admiration”
oh wow the same can’t be said about SO many other foods and groups of people. eye roll.

Let people eat what they want. Don’t like it, don’t buy it. In any group of people there are obnoxious braggers. They don’t speak for everyone. Maybe you should buy under one size up next time so you stop feeling so uptight, Edward.

M Long

July 24th, 2012
4:49 pm

Saul do you eat meat???

Travis

July 24th, 2012
7:12 pm

Saul,

The evidence of harm to geese is at best equivocal, anti foie groups seem to always find evidence of harm, other groups, not so much.

missnadine

July 25th, 2012
2:49 pm

John, as a born and raised Montrealer, I LOVE poutine of morts. I don’t think I would ever try it with foie gras though.

Baltisraul

July 25th, 2012
3:56 pm

Edward for Pope!!!!!!!!!Talk about pompas. And who uses the word lout, anymore? Edward your posts kill me! lol

This ban was instituted in Chicago also. The resturants just ignored it and kept on serving. I guess the food police are a little shorthanded in Chicago.

Mike

July 26th, 2012
2:07 pm

Saul, you might want to look up the word “sentient.” This is real life, not “Charlotte’s Web.” The farm animals are not “sentient.”

vince

July 26th, 2012
5:19 pm

“People who eat foie, and especially those who then boast about it, aren’t worthy of any further respect or admiration. It doesn’t make them appear the consummate epicurean, but instead an immoral lout. I look at them with disdain, much as I would someone who abuses children or cheats on their spouse.”

Seriously? Eating foie gras puts me on the same level as a monster like Sandusky? Seriously?
That is the problem with people like Saul and Edward youcant be taken seriosly.
To be quite honest the comment disgusts me. how you can put a goose on the same level as a human is beyond me

I will leave now and go have some delicious foie or maybe abuse a small child- same thing

Edward

July 27th, 2012
4:58 am

I simply cannot tolerate abuse of animals or children, I cannot just look away and pretend it doesn’t exist nor will I accept ludicrous justifications for such heinous acts.

Toby Miller

July 27th, 2012
9:29 am

If California is doing this you know its stupid. Try getting your state out of debt and running a fiscally responsible state instead of crying over duck and geese. I love Foie Gras.

Edward

July 27th, 2012
11:07 am

Toby Miller: actually, Californians are subsidizing Georgians and other Southern states via taxes. For every Federal tax dollar Californians pay, they receive only 0.78 cents back. Georgia receives $1.24+ for every $1 paid in taxes to the Fed. Alabama, Mississippi, etc. receive even more. Maybe if Georgia and other Southern states weren’t sucking the Fed dry, the “Blue” states like California could at least break even.

James

July 27th, 2012
3:42 pm

Believe or not this is putting people out of work. These same groups want to tell you what to eat and how much, what to drive and how far, and what God we worship, if any.

Gordon Gekko was right; California has made more mistakes than Yogi Berra reciting Shakespeare. Who would ever want to go there.

Lawsuits were filed last month claiming the ban is unconstitutional, vague and interferes with federal commerce laws.

If you are a Vegan, that’s perfectly fine. JUST DON’T FORCE YOUR VIEWS ON ME!

Veggie

July 27th, 2012
3:57 pm

@ James, we aren’t forcing our views on you, we’re trying to help educate you. Animals have families too. Have a bit of respect.

Baltisraul

July 27th, 2012
5:54 pm

Veggie……”animals have families too” Now that is a hoot!!!!!!!!!

Edward

July 27th, 2012
9:27 pm

@James: funny you would mention “what god we worship”. Do you include an admonition against the “christians” who bully the local zoning boards to prevent the building of a mosque? How about the “christians” who commit arson and spray paint epithets on the construction of mosques? How about the “christians” who kicked several churches out of the SBC because they dared to accept gay members? Seems to me that is a lot of someone telling others “what god to worship.”

Baltisraul

July 28th, 2012
8:31 am

Edward……until the “true believers” stop wanting to kill all the “non believers”, I don’t want that mosque in my neighborhood either. Remember it was not a bunch of guys from Norway that crashed those planes into the World Trade Center. I lost a friend on those upper floors. I will not forget!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I will not forgive until I see a change in their behavior.

Mark

July 28th, 2012
8:09 pm

Foie gras is not anymore diseased than you brain is.

Edward

July 28th, 2012
10:55 pm

Balt: your “logic” is about as sound as someone blaming all christians for the actions of Timothy McVeigh in OK City. Your justifications for your discrimination are hollow and childish. And how dare you piss on the memory of those who died on 9/11 by attempting to use their deaths to further your demented bigotry. I lost several friends that day. You don’t own that heartbreak.