California’s Foie Gras Ban

 I’m not going to debate the morality of foie gras production with you. Here are the facts: The ducks andFattening ducks for foie gras geese are generally confined to a small pen; a metal tube is periodically inserted down their throats, and they are force fed to engorge their livers (this is a slightly exaggerated version of the way food critics are treated, to be honest).

The method originated in France, where the fattened livers have been considered a delicacy for centuries. Over the past decade or two, as food culture exploded in America, it has come to be regarded as the height of culinary sophistication here as well. Not surprisingly, the practice has attracted the anger of animal rights activists, who have recently lobbied to ban foie gras around the country.

Amid much controversy, California outlawed foie gras on July 1, and I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how things were going. Not very well, as it turns out. Few restaurants are paying any attention to the ban, and many (particularly in San Francisco) are openly flouting it. On July 2, Chef Antoine Price of Café Mimosa in San Clemente reacted to the situation by featuring a six-course, $150 prix fixe menu with foie gras appearing in every dish. It was appropriately title “Foie You!”

“They can lock me up if they want,” said Price. “I don’t mind.” Actually, the authorities have already signaled that they have no plans to incarcerate the offenders. A similar situation occurred in Chicago, which banned foie gras in 2006. Many of the city’s chefs defied the prohibition, filing lawsuits and continuing to serve the fattened liver. The ban was rescinded in 2008. In California, the litigation has already begun.

Dwight Eisenhower famously remarked that “You can’t legislate morality.” He was wrong: You may certainly do so, but it’s not likely that anyone will pay attention to you.

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