Saturday, March 3, 2012

To Foie Gras or not to Foie Gras...

Roasted whole with Thyme & Shallots and presented to the table and carved before your eyes...  Seared with an unctous fruit sauce derived from a variety of fresh summer berries and placed atop grilled peaches with brioche and Maldon Salt...  Cured with salt, white pepper and Cognac and rolled in a kitchen towel, poached for the briefest of times and sliced and topped with a hazelnut glacage and sweet cherries...  These are just three ways of an infinite variety in which to truly represent a part of culinary heritage given to us by generations of farmers who have overseen the production of foie gras. 

In 2005 I appeared on the front cover of The Yellow Scene magazine with a plate of Tournedos Rossini which is a Classic French preparation created for the composer Gioachino Rossini by Marie-Antoine Carême.  The dish comprises a Tournedos of Beef, pan-fried in butter and served on a Crouton then topped with a slice of whole Foie Gras. The dish is garnished with slices of Black Truffle, and finished with a Madeira Demi-Glace.  I gave copies of the magazine to my parents and was quite proud of the way the dish looked.  Later, I actually had people giving me a hard time for the use of the foie gras...not threatening my life but ridiculing me for the use of the foie gras, something akin to having paint splashed on my mink or animal fur coat (I do not own a mink or animal fur coat.  If I was living in Greenland or the Yukon Territory I might rethink that...).  No mention about how the beef was raised.  Hormone injected?  Humanely killed and slaughtered?  No, it was the gavage of the ducks in question.  We milk cows twice a day to promote a greater yield in the dairy business.  Unnatural, no?  We change the gentic structure of plants to gain a greater bushel to acre ratio all for the love of profit and more profit.  Gavage is the process of force-feeding ducks and geese in the last 6 weeks of their lives in order to swell the liver.  The fowl are killed for not only the liver but for their usual parts, as well.  No part of the duck goes unused.  None.  Only people who ethically cherish the products which they sell to consumers will utilize all that is available.  This is not butchering a White Rhinoceros for the horn only and leaving the carcass to rot in the African sun or catching sharks simply for the fins and then casting the rudderless species back into the briny deep.  If you don't take care of the ducks you won't have a good end product and you won't sell the foie gras to make your living. 

The animals live a life destined as food.  This has been going on for millenia, since the Ancient Egyptians observed ducks and geeese engorging themselves on figs before their bi-annual trips to the outer limits of their avian territories.  Families have been engaged in this process for hundreds of years in Europe.  'Inhumane' is a word that is bandied about often in this 'controversial' process.  It would be 'inhumnae' to force feed a human!  We have a different anatomy!!!  The bird has no gag reflex and has a tough gullet which receives the tube and the feed used to engorge the liver.  Here is the video from Hudson Valley Foie Gras:

As a cook, Chef and consumer I find it also DAMN GOOD TO EAT.  To the people who want ethical treatment of animals I say - stay out of the foie gras farm and put your efforts towards other issues like ridding our world of Genetically Modified Organisms.  So much effort is put forth in the abolition of foie gras production but we can't control drug trafficking, child pornography or even Mexican Nationals illegally jumping & swimming the Rio Grande in pursuit of a better life.  Really?  If there is no more foie gras it won't be the end of the world.  It will be a part of our culinary heritage taken away from those who wish to savor and use it.  There is always two sides to a foie gras, or a coin...   Me?  I choose to Foie Gras.  Often.  Peace.

P.S.  Here is Dan Barber's foie gras parable and a brilliant lecture about Eduardo Sousa who can lay claim to a truly 'ethical' production of foie gras.

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