Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Foie is not your Foe

I am so happy that I do not live in California! Recently, I learned that the state of California is banning Foie Gras. As of July of this year, foie gras will be illegal in California. This makes me feel bad for Californians. They get to vote on all sorts of different matters and enact real changes in their state and this is how they use their voting power. I don't understand why they would waste their time on foie gras. Does PETA run the state? People have a right to chose what they want to eat and foie gras is not dangerous.

I love foie gras! It is like delicious meat butter. It is creamier than bone marrow but they share that deep, rich, umami flavor. Foie gras is French for "fat liver" and it is just that. The fatten liver of a goose or duck. Foie gras does not have that iron metallic flavor found in most other livers. Foie gras is rich in iron, vitamin A, and good healthy fats (unsaturated) while being low in bad fats (saturated and trans fats) and low in sugar. I wonder how many voters in California have actually tasted foie gras.

The controversy is not that foie gras is dangerous to consume but that the farming practices are inhumane. Foie gras is farmed using a practice called gavage. Yes, gavage is a fancy French term for force feeding through a tube. Force feeding sounds really bad but when you don't have a gag reflex and are a total glutton it really isn't. Ducks and geese have no gag reflex and swallow whole fish that are bigger than the feeding tubes used in gavage. They also breath through their tongues which sounds insane but makes suffocation by feeding tube impossible.

The fattening of animals is nothing new. The cattle industry fattens up beef cows and feeds them food that is not even in their natural diet. A cows natural diet is grass but factory cattle farms feed them a steady diet of corn along with some really gross shit. The conditions of feed lots are overcrowded and disgusting with cows knee high in their own feces. These feed lot practices are not only bad for the animals but they are also bad for the meat. Yes the meat may be better marbled, more tender, and flavorful but it also has higher amounts of bad fats and less of the good Omega 3 fatty acids. They also create massive amounts of run off waste which can end up polluting local rivers and water supplies. Why didn't California outlaw commercial cattle feed lots?

Why is foie gras being singled out? Because foie gras is not an industrialized mega farming endeavor. Mom and pop farms do not have the muscle and money to lobby and protect themselves. The cattle industry is massive and has a lot of pull and protection. Making foie gras illegal is a strike against small independent family farms. This ban will definitely have greater affects than what you are able to eat. For one, a family farm will lose their livelihood.

What we need to do is go back to the time before industrialized farming. Your food does not need to travel thousands of miles before it arrives at your local mega supermarket. Food has a season and we should respect that. Food also costs money and you get what you pay for. The dollar menu sounds like a bargain until you start to wonder where that beef patty came from. I know that almost everyone is having money issues and it can be hard to pass up a bargain but sometimes it is better to walk away.

You also do not need to eat meat at every meal every day. Find your local farmers, go to your neighborhood farmer's market, and enjoy their bounty. You can feel good about supporting a local family, saving gas on food transportation which is good for the environment, and supporting a local patch of land that will not be turned into a strip mall plus providing good healthy food for your family.

You should care about where all your food comes and how it was raised. Were your apples sprayed with pesticides? Was your chicken shot full of antibiotics? Did your bacon come from a pig that was kept in a cage so small that it couldn't turn around? When it comes to foie gras, I think people are getting hung up on gavage. It think it matters more what environment the ducks and geese are raised in and how they are treated. Also as important is how the human workers are treated on the farm. I understand that not every foie gras farm is idyllic but I am sure the percentage of cattle/pork/chicken farms with worse conditions is much greater.

We are Americans and we were founded on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Taking away my right to choose to eat something like foie gras is taking away my right to choose. They have already taken away our right to raw milk, whats next? Will they take away our sushi?

Read more about foie gras at:
Serious Eats
The Village Voice

Want to learn more about your food?
What to Eat
Real Food
The Omnivore's Dilemma
Food, Inc.
King Corn
Supersize Me
The Dive
Check out Slow Food USA

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


You may recall that I love Raclette. I think it blows fondue out of the milk! You don't have to worry about hot splash back or losing your chunk in hot lava cheese. Fondue also has limited creativity and combinations. The basic principal is skewer chunk (meat, veggie, fruit, bread) and dip in cheese, oil, or chocolate. It is hard to factor much else into the equation.

Raclette is full of possibilities. You take some Raclette cheese and add anything to it and keep adding different ingredients. You just don't want to pile on so much that the food will be touching the heating element because it will either burn or catch on fire. One trick to Raclette is to forget about it, then you will achieve that golden crunchy cheese yumminess.

I think of Raclette as a winter activity and was very happy to get a cold spell this weekend. We hadn't used our Raclette grill since last winter and I wanted to use it before next winter. We planned a small gathering of about 8 people total. You don't want too many people running around with hot cheese when you have 2 dogs and a baby underfoot. It was fun for everybody to come up different combinations and share "recipes".

The cheeses we had were Raclette as well as Beemster goat Gouda (which is a nice melter) and Robiola Bosina (not a good melter as the fat content is too high). The meats were a goose liver pate, Landjaeger which is a dried hunters sausage, Porchetta which is pork loin wrapped in pancetta, and Finnochionia. There was also crispy kale, olives, marinated mushrooms, portabello mushrooms, cornishons, melba toast, baguette, and of course boiled potatoes. I also offered a selection of salts, smoked Maldon, green herb salt, and a red spice salt.

The standout highlight combination of the night was Raclette with marinated mushrooms and crispy kale. I can't stop thinking of it even though I ate a ton that night. I am gonna put that combination into a grilled cheese. I could even do an open face grilled cheese under the broiler! What a great way to get in your greens.