As anyone who loves food (or animals) in California already knows, legislation banning foie gras is set to be enforced starting this July. It's a controversial subject in the food world, that has had both sides of the protest up in figurative arms.
With all that is going on in the world, it may seem silly to be so caught up in the politics of food, especially a luxury item like foie gras - which most Californians either do not enjoy, find morally reprehensible, have no interest in trying, or simply find cost prohibitive. It is a relatively small contingent of food lovers who truly appreciate the luscious lobes in all its glory.
With world hunger, poverty, political instability, global climate change - is it entirely self-indulgent to rise up about a luxury good?
Yes and no. You can make the argument on both sides - is it equally 'frivolous' for PETA activists to sensationalize and witchhunt this cause (comprised of a relatively small group of artisan farms), when chickens are raised on a massive scale in conditions a million times more horrendous and impacts a much wider population of both birds and humans (as uncovered by the salmonella outbreak of 2010 that sickened 1,500 people and triggered a recall of 500 million eggs)? Why is foie the priority when the poultry industry has animals living in such squalor that they are passing on disease and risking human lives at such huge numbers? Could it be that they know victory against the giant poultry industry would be all but impossible - whereas small farms that produce foie would be easy prey?
And to me, on the other side, it is much more than just a small group of 'the privileged' 'whining' that they won't get their treats anymore. Nevermind that the whole system by nature is designed to ensure the animals are well taken care of (among other things, this produces quality food - quality foie fetches a premium price - so farmers have a vested interest in the fowl living well). Nevermind explanations that ducks/geese are migratory birds that do not have a gag reflex and naturally gorge seasonally to prepare for extended flight. Whether or not birds are harmed can and will be disputed ad infinitum and ad nauseum in the absence of empirical scientific studies - and as in any other industry in the history of civilization, there will be bad producers that should be punished individually for their practices versus triggering an unjust blanket policy that indiscriminately disables business for the good ones as well. But at its core the fundamental issue with the foie ban is that government is now legislating our diets - it's a slippery slope. If we let this slide now, it is a matter of time before there are no more lines. What's to stop them from determining that ALL meat represents cruelty to animals - afterall, we are ultimately taking their lives? In fact, what's to stop legislators from determining whatever they want about what we should and should not eat? What's next to go after meat? You can make an argument for anything if you really put your mind to it.
We absolutely need government to enforce standards of cleanliness and safety in the kitchen, for public health reasons. If an animal is on the endangered species list - absolutely the government should step in to prevent their extinction. But outside of that, we don't need a nanny/big brother state to control what we can and cannot eat.
This is not a case of California boldly going where no other government has gone before - Chicago also sucuumbed to PETA pressure in 2006 and outlawed foie, but quickly realized it was "the silliest thing they've ever done" and repealed the law. Here's to hoping California comes to its senses soon as well.
All in all, another inspired meal from creative force of nature Chef Ludo - the best of the last hurrahs for a beloved ingredient (at least until the law gets repealed). The experience was bittersweet given the context for the event - but I am grateful for people like Ludo who have the will and fortitude to speak up and stand up for what they believe, and for the right to be free from arbitrary culinary censorship. I am grateful for friends, old and new, to share a common passion - and who never ceases to amaze me with their generous spirits. It reminds me that food should be something that connects people, not divides. It would be too easy to demonize those who you disagree with, but at the end of the day I hope that until scientific studies prove definitively one way or the other, that the two sides of the foie debate can agree to disagree, and respect each other's right to choose.
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 6.5 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$$ (3 bite marks mains)
Probability of return visit - 100% (hopefully there will be more of these foie dinners before July!)
Best of LudoBites Foie Gras Night at Gram & Papa's
227 East 9th St, Los Angeles, CA 90015