How can something this delectable be so wrong? Well, to some it is wrong and to some it is all right (note: not alright). The Uncouth Gourmands always put our tummies first but we do acknowledge the line between scrumptious delicacy and duck force feeding until livers expand to 10x their size for the sake of that food.
When we arrived at Vroman’s to see Mark Caro, author of Foie Gras Wars, we weren’t sure if we were in the right place becasue the first woman we saw was clearly an animal rights activist. We were a little nervous when we saw how warmly she received the author, she even invited him to a hoedown at her farm. At the point I had sent Josie a text message that read, “He already had a groupie offer him a hoe down.” We laughed and waited for the discussion to begin. We didn’t know anything of the author prior and after this encounter we figured he was probably very anti-foie gras. When he finally began speaking he started by explaining the issue at the most basic level. People like ducks, they are seen in cartoons and in most city ponds, and duck jokes are some of the smartest. There is no negative connotation with the word, as Mark pointed out, like with cow, pig, or chicken. You think of a lucky duck or water off a ducks back but neither is bad in the slightest. Plus duck is not a common food except among the wealthy, so there are not as many mixed emotions if you didn’t grow up eating it. He then went into the more complex issues like where everyone draws their own line, the small farms, the treatment of the ducks, the so-called disease, the silly Chicago ban, the underground foie gras restaurants that popped up in Chicago at that time. What an interesting time in American Food history and Mark Caro, a reporter (mostly Entertainment) at the Chicago Tribune, was the catalyst for this whole thing.
Our favorite thing about Mark and his book is that you will all be able to draw your own conclusions from the nonbias facts he lays out. As he pointed out a writer in Chicago said that this book made him stop eating foie gras and yet Salon said it was the best justifaction for eating it. Even in the small reception at the bookstore I noticed the exact same thing. The UG ladies were nodding along with the animal activist and we were both interpreting his words entirely differently. That is a mark (pun always intended) of a true reporter. When he opened the floor for questions, of course, the first question asked was, do you eat it now? He said on occasion, I nodded happily and the activists gasped. He said he doesn’t eat veal or pork and rarely red meat and tries to eat organic, free range, and cage free poultry but it is difficult to be consistent.
We were thoroughly impressed and sure this rollercoaster of books (coined by Josie) would leave each reader with a very different conclusion and we liked that. Personally we tend to side with Bourdain on the issue. Okay, I will admit it, we just want to be like him in every respect but foie gras is mighty delicious and I hope the foie gras ban that is supposed to come into play in 2012 in California is repealed.
Oh and buy the book. Mark’s newspaper employer is one of many going under so help a thoughtful eater out.
So what did we do after this discussion? We had a hankering for poultry and headed to a chicken institution in Los Angeles, Zankou. We were also celebrating our highest number of daily blog hits. Josie introduced me to the Tarna and I don’t think I will ever go back to the simple chicken plate after that.