I am so sick of people talking to me about foie gras..
I seldom eat it, I serve it on special occasions, I am a fairly ethical chef in general.. Why me? And enough already anyway.
I don’t love it, I don’t hate it, I don’t have a problem with it really, probably because I grew up in the French influenced province of Québec where food, tradition and indulgence (joie de vivre) are deep rooted in the cultural fabric.
But apparently many people (not around me, but on line) do have a problem with it. So, maybe we should all stop serving it. No matter how traditional or yummy it is to many people. Even if it is not any more inhumane than most of the meat we eat, perhaps it is something that we should rethink. But that largely comes down to the vegetarian –meat eating debate the way I see it. And this is a sub-sub-sub category. Like I have said before, foie gras is a luxury, specialty item, consumed by few, largely produced by small family style operations. In other words, a blip on the scale of our omnivorous dilemmas - nothing compared to the crass, mass produced chicken in cages, the corn, petroleum and antibiotic fed beef, the equally antibiotic ridden and environmentally destructive farmed shrimp and salmon, the un-fair trade coffee, chocolate, and every other industrial thing the vast majority of the western population consumes daily in huge quantities. If you saw how your factory farmed chicken breasts or snow peas or shrimp or chocolate bars or T-shirts were produced, you would be horrified - for the health risks, for environmental concerns, for the slave labour and so much more.. altogether far worse than a few ducks that naturally gorge by design, being fed an excessive amount of corn.
So, just when I thought I’d heard it all on this subject, I got a call alerting me to a contest for making faux foie gras!
Making faux foie gras, the contest: http://www.peta.org/FauxFoieGrasChallenge/
I couldn’t be less interested. I don’t even understand.
First of all, how do you make vegetarian foie gras? I’m a cook, not a lab scientist. This is obviously a call to those anti-foie, creative molecular gastronomy dudes (I wonder how many of them are out there?) or maybe agribusiness food science geeks. Such a task calls for ‘meat glue’, emulsifiers, stabilizers, all kinds of chemicals no doubt, and then maybe some fatty vegetable like avocado, some chicken bits, who knows, who cares.. It recalls the once novel but ultimately HUGE aberration that was Margarine, and industrial, processed food in general. The idea of manipulating elements, concocting seductive pseudo-foods marketed for convenience and profit, like all those trans fats and refined sugars - think the biggest mistakes of the last few decades. The opposite of real food! I’m against it.
If you don’t want to eat foie gras, then don’t. If you don’t want to eat meat then don’t. I don’t get this contest, or any of that fancier vegetarian restaurant fare that embraces the concept of making foodstuff look and taste like meat. If you want to eschew meat, then vegetables, grains and legumes are good enough on their own. You can make them tasty without shaping them into meat and crustacean shapes with chemical help, less manipulation is better anyway. I eat vegetables all the time, I rarely eat meat, I know. But I also know that a little meat is probably a good thing. Not only does your body tell you so, but read this when you get a chance .. http://soupnancy.squarespace.com/im-a-natural-born-killer/
All to say I’m not too sure why I’m getting so much attention from both pro and anti foie crusaders; the few times I’ve spoken about it, I feel like I made my stance clear. http://soupnancy.squarespace.com/blog-journalessays/2007/7/22/foie-gras.html
It seems that I was diplomatic enough to have encouraged all kinds of people to write to me, and many yahoos who don’t seem to have gotten what I was saying. No, I don’t think they ever read any of it. They just saw a site where foie gras was being debated and so wanted to insert their propaganda. If they post it on my site, I leave it. If they send it to me as an email, I delete it. I’m willing to engage in dialogue, but with them, there is no dialogue, they have their mind made up, they assume I do too; with no arguments, with an aggressive ‘like it’s so obviously bad because it’s cruel’ kind of attitude, they so turn me off. I would let their words rest on my site if they had the guts to do so, just not in my personal inbox. Like I said before, I would like to see what’s in their fridge and cupboard before taking them seriously -if they are those two-faced unconscious people who eat mass produced chicken breasts from Costco and have never spent any time in nature, haven’t met a hunter in their life or a seal outside a PETA video, never think about where their own food comes from, but then are against foie production - no it doesn’t add up, and I can’t deal. I’m just so tired of that debate.
I have our duck event coming up, so I will be serving foie gras. After that, I don’t know, we’ll see. But it’s going to come down to being more about what my customers say than what these guys say. I have my finger out in the wind, I am flexible, but at this point, it seems that foie makes Quebeckers happy, they’re not quite willing to give it up as a special occasion, celebratory kind of thing. And without any moral high ground I feel solid on, I am willing to accommodate them, at least once a year.
The funny thing is that when it comes to fish, I’m quite a bit more opinionated, I don’t leave it up to the customers at all. I have been avoiding over fished species for years, to the surprise of any fish monger I came across, I was causing a ruckus 5 years ago .. But it’s because to me, especially now, that is much more black and white as an issue; we have devastated our waters with undeniable detriment to the planet, and it’s currently an incredibly neglected cause. Fish as we knew it no longer exist, thanks to trawlers, greedy governments and their indiscriminate technology (ours too), and uninformed eaters of course. The marine eco-system has long collapsed. We have no choice but to choose to eat from the bottom of the food chain and to research the particular sustainable fisheries, anything else is truly criminal or just insane even health wise.. (‘Bottomfeeder’ by Taras Grescoe is a must read BTW). Thankfully, oysters are still good. As long as we have oysters, who needs foie gras. But seriously, we have to be more worried about our fish than our ducks. And I have better things to do than try to simulate foie gras, thank you.