©05 The Media Desk
UPDATE: August, 06
It would seem that the City of Chicago agrees with the Desk. See the CNN Story
First off the Desk is nobody's idea of a Vegetarian. Yes it eats vegetables, and salads, and fruit, and just about everything else like that. It also cooks and eats all the 'dead animal' it can, prepared all sorts of ways. It can do wonderful things with pork chops, knows a little something about cooking chicken, can grill anything that will hold still, and could write a cookbook about what you can put in a crock pot and a pressure cooker.
And although it doesn't really like hot dogs, and sometimes you have to wonder if what is inside your usual run of the mill hot dog was EVER anything that would fit under the general heading 'The Animal Kingdom' be it poultry, beef, pork or some combination thereof, it will eat a hot dog on odd occasion.
But there is one type of meat or meat by-product it does not eat. We'll get there in a minute.
In its foodservice career the Desk has prepared almost everything from Kosher meals to whole roasted hogs, its gone through careful evaluation of medical meal restrictions including Diabetic and Lo-Residue diets, it has observed Islamic dietary laws and even cooked things like chitlins (chitterlings for those of you that insist on the correct spelling) and sweetbreads (don't know what it is? look it up) for other occasions. Deer steaks? Catfish? Muskrat? Oh yeah.
For the most part, if humans ever considered it food and would pay somebody else to cook it, the Desk has. And in some cases it then spent two days trying to get the smell out of the restaurant kitchen afterward [no matter what you do to kidneys, they STILL stink when you're dealing with twenty pounds of them at a time].
It's been involved in the careful breading and frying of whole game hens all trussed up to be pretty. It's assisted as whole bulls were roasted and flocks of wild ducks and geese were plucked for cooking. Shellfish by the bushel, sausages by the case, whatever it is, however you want it done... been there, did that, cut back on the salt a little, and kept it at serving temperature until dinner was over.
Chinese restaurants, convention centers, truck stops and institutions. It's fed the general public, fraternal organizations, convicts, boy scouts... three meals a day, seven days a week, and Brunch on Sunday.
"Fried pork brain sandwich on a Kaiser roll? Yes sir. You want cheese on that?" Oh yeah, been there, cooked that, got paid time and a half to do it into the bargain.
As far as eating.
For the most part, if Western Man has EVER eaten it as part of a regular diet, the Desk has had it. And even today, it won't turn its nose up at anything within reason.
No it will not go on the TV show and eat bugs or cow eyeballs. Those aren't everyday food.
But. If you want that for dinner, that's your business. Just don't expect this one to watch it on TV.
Now to the subject of this essay.
There is something on the market that simply shouldn't be.
We won't get into whether or not you have the Right to HOME raise it if you want to for your own use, if you have the Right to buy it, or pay somebody else to cook it, or whatever. The Desk is sort of on both sides of the issue, especially when it comes to having Federal Legislation on it one way or the other. Yes it may be something you can easily live without, but a lot of people seem to be almost addicted to it. And if there's a buck to be made, why not? As long as it's not overly cruel to the critter involved.
By definition the substance is actually a diseased organ. If you had the human equivalent to it, you'd be on a special diet and medication because a severe case of it can kill you, as in when untreated hepatic steatosis develops into cirrhosis in either alcoholic or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (fatty liver disease).
Of course most Desk readers will have figured out by now that we are talking about foi gras. The various preparations of the severely diseased livers of ducks and geese.
Foi Gras, also 'foie gras', comes as whole organs if you are within reach of a farm, and processed blocks where the livers are prepared and compressed for storage and transport. As well as various other preparations including mixtures of foi gras with other things sold in tubs and tins.
But it is not just liver as in 'liver and onions' from roadside diners nationwide.
People who will not touch fried liver with gravy scoop up all the foi gras they can get their hands on thinking they are eating something really really special.
Domesticated male ducks and geese are force fed for a couple of weeks (geese for up to a month) to fatten up their livers which are then harvested for the sole purpose of producing the delicacy. The reason they stop the force feeding at that point is that if it continues longer, the birds die. The livers of the somewhat smaller female birds don't get as large as those of the males, so there's not as much profit in it.
The force-feeding is accomplished by pushing a funnel down the bird's throat and pouring in large amounts of corn and other high energy food. Birds cannot vomit, so they digest the food, and then store the fat in their livers.
A normal duck liver weighs somewhere on the order of an ounce or two. A foi gras duck liver can weigh over a pound and be swollen to over ten times its beginning volume. From the research the Desk did, there is little information about what happens to the rest of the bird, it would seem that only the liver is used for food, the rest of the carcass is discarded.
It is part of the make up of migratory birds to store fat in their livers for their long flights. So the proponents of this practice say they are only doing what nature intended. And that the technique was used by the ancient Egyptians and others throughout history.
Well. OK, at times the Egyptians sacrificed people to their gods as well. We stopped that some time ago didn't we?
They also claim that there is no evidence that the ducks or geese suffer from this procedure any more than any other domesticated fowl do during their lives. To that the Desk would ask what would they accept as evidence that the goose they are doing this to doesn't mind what's happening to it and would chose this option given the choice between the life of say a Thanksgiving table bound domestic turkey or being a foi gras?
Point by Point.
OK. Sure. It tastes good. From what the Desk can remember, and yes it has had it during the course of its twenty years of foodservice experience, it combines the richness of duck and the taste of liver with a high fat content, it is tender (if prepared correctly), and is very versatile- adding its flavor to almost anything quite easily. One gourmand friend of the Desk said the flavor was 'succulent', well, if anything is, it is.
Restaurants can charge through the nose for anything they can figure out a way to add the words 'foi gras' to. And they can double that price if they make it with goose liver- due to the more labor and feed intensive process because geese are larger birds, goose liver foi gras runs at nearly half again the price of the canard (duck) variety and is harder to find. Call a breakfast special 'fried spam and eggs with goose pate' and charge sixteen fifty for an otherwise three dollar meal.
It's French. "curse - spit" and the fancy people are still convinced that everything French is far and above superior to anything else. And they Must have it. And Will pay for it. Like truffles, which are a fungus. Well, foi gras ain't French, it started in the Middle East ages before anybody ever even thought about being French. While it does have a flavor all its own, it is not that spectacular by a long shot. At least not so special as to be worth the fifty dollars a pound some outfits charge for the raw product.
Fifty Dollars a Pound for a fat liver.
Of course, in blocks or pate (and pate looks suspiciously like what is inside those hot dogs we talked about earlier) or whatever, you can get the price down a bit. But it will still set you back some thirty to forty dollars a pound. And again, goose liver will run more than that.
Put it in the same file as 'chilled monkey brains' and things like that. Sure, it's a delicacy and all, but come on.... some things are just better off left alone.
Now the Desk is not going to sit here and start trying to quote scripture to give ducks a soul and convince you to take the pledge and start eating pine trees. No. [It did some research that way while working on this article and.... well, that'll go into the article Metaphysical Boundaries not here and now.] Domestic ducks and geese belong out on some farm pond, not in a small cage being force fed, and not in Seminary. They're essentially chickens that can swim.
In fact, the Desk just had fried chicken for lunch.
It is not going to go into the massive suffering of the birds and the cruelty inflicted upon them and how inhumane it all is, and how brutal the farmers are, and then tell you about its lunch. Well, for one- SOME, and admittedly it seems to be a small percentage of them, but, some of the farmers actually try to minimize the trauma the birds go through during the feedings.
Yeah. Factory farms, like where today's lunch came from, are almost by definition not nice places. Its part of the price we pay for being the civilization we are. If we all ran out and became somebody like the "Grizzly Adams" of the TV show, life would be a lot simpler, but a lot of people would starve in short order. [See reference below- again, more fruits of the research into the fruits.] And no, lettuce does not have even the rights or dignity a duck does. Sheesh
And yes the Desk knows about how veal is raised. Which is why it won't go out of its way to buy veal, but it also won't turn it down if it is offered.
It will turn down fatty duck liver... even if it is not paying for it. Thank you, but no thank you.
And it hopes more people will 'just say no' as well.
NOTE: California recently passed a law restricting the factory farm production of foi gras. The ban does not take effect until 2012, and many forces are mustering to the fight to have the law repealed (and some of those turn out to have Hollywood addresses). The Desk will sit back and watch and keep you informed.
SIDENOTE: About Grizzly Adams as referenced above.
The concept for the 1970's movie and TV show the Life and Times of Grizzly Adams was in fact 'somewhat loosely' based on the life of a real mountain man named James Adams.End Note
Yes it was.
But only the concept. And only loosely.
In the show, Adams took a solemn vow to never harm another living creature and expressed almost irrational gentleness to almost everything. He was a vegetarian, if not a vegan. He went out of his way to rescue animals in distress at great personal danger to himself. And had an almost religious devotion to the wilderness.
It made a heartwarming show.
The real James Capen Adams was NOT a vegetarian. In fact he became an expert hunter and trapper and sold game meat to California restaurants. In his autobiography he goes to great lengths to recount how delicious roasted grizzly bear meat is. The real Adams was also a womanizer, while in the show Dan Haggerty was only allowed to socialize with his bear and various male friends to keep the show 'pure' (something the actor thought was borderline stupid).
A man of his world and times, in this case the early to mid nineteenth century, Adams had been a businessman in Boston. After a series of deals went bad, he headed west, leaving his family with his debts, and became a mountain man. He did have a bear he had raised from a cub that was named Ben Franklin. But, Ben ended up in a zoo that Adams ran through the 1850's in San Francisco. After Ben died, 'Grizzly Adams' went on the road with master showman PT Barnum, trading on his amazing ability to tame and train bear cubs and various other animals, something the show did get right.
Adams died in 1860 still working for Barnum. He is buried in his home state of Massachusetts.
Some naturalists 'credit' him more than any other single man with the near extinction of the grizzly bear in California.
Many resources were combed in the background work for this article. Including the following on Mr. Adams: berkeley.edu Page contains a selection from his autobiography and an image of the man.
And these on foi gras
Against: Jewish Vegetarians http://www.jewishveg.com
www.all-creatures.org Self Explanitory.
the other side of the issue:
www.sonomafoiegras.com Sonoma, CA foie gras
Hudson Valley Foie Gras http://www.hudsonvalleyfoiegras.com
and a fancy restaurant that serves it, with menu: The Fleur de Lys- San Francisco http://www.fleurdelyssf.com/
The Desk's Thesis Metaphysical Boundaries Where the Desk will discuss the souls of ducks in a future installment of the series.
For more on foi gras or anything else discussed above, drop the term into a search engine.
[NOTE: The Desk is not a vegetarian nor does it play one on TV. It has never been to the Fleur de Lys diner, does not believe ducks have souls, will not force feed anything except itself, and is mostly of the opinion that duck livers are NOT the business of the State or Federal governments- unless extreme cruelty is involved in their production.
thank you - Dr Leftover ]
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