Today (30th June), an item was posted on guardian.co.uk titled ‘California takes foie gras off the menu, but some chefs say ban is a bit rich’.
‘… Animal rights protesters celebrate, but some accuse California of hypocrisy in enacting bill proposed by Schwarzenegger in 2004 -
At Mélisse in Santa Monica, diners were preparing Saturday for “one last huzzah” in honour of a controversial delicacy that will soon become contraband across California.
Awaiting them at the upmarket French bistro is a feast of foie gras, a seven-course special celebrating the food stuff that makes animal rights campaigners gag, but leaves aficionados wanting more.
Those who make it through to the final dish – a strawberry shortcake stuffed with foie gras mousse and accompanied with foie gras ice cream – will be battling time, as well as their belts.
For at midnight California will enact a law it promised eight years ago, making the fattened livers of force-fed ducks and geese illegal.
Foie gras has long been a target for those calling for the ethical treatment of livestock. Translated to English as “fatty liver”, foie gras is produced by a process known as gavage, in which the birds are force-fed corn through a tube.
It is designed to enlarge the birds’ livers before being slaughtered, after which the organs are harvested and served up as a rich – and to fans a mouth-watering – delicacy.
The process dates back centuries. But in late 2004, then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill banning the sale of foie gras.
Diners and chefs were given a suitably long grace period to find an alternative method to gavage or wean themselves off the stuff it produces.
But despite a concerted effort by some to get the proposed ban overturned, seven and a half years down the line the law is now to be enacted.
From July 1, any restaurant serving foie gras will be fined up to $1,000 according to the statute. As the deadline has neared, restaurants have seen a growth in patrons wanting foie gras.
Special menus have been constructed to meet demand. Mélisse is just one of many restaurants offering a multi-course tasting menu. For $185 a head, parties can munch through seven courses of foie gras.
Not to be outdone, Alexander’s Steakhouse in San Francisco are offering eight dishes, including a “foiedka” cocktail – a variant of vodka in which the liver has been soaked.
The foie gras frenzy started some weeks ago, explained James Spencer, manager of Mélisse.
“We are fully booked for Saturday. In fact we have been booked out for the last few weeks.”
He said: “We have had a special menu since February and it has been growing in popularity. A few people choose it because they want to see what foie gras is all about, but most people are fans of it already.
Mélisse is taking the ban on the chin. “We are closed Sunday and Monday. But we have a new menu ready for Tuesday and we will respect the ban,” Spenser said.
For others, the new law will have a more lasting effect. At Sonoma, California’s only producer of foie gras, the Gonzalez family is to close its doors after 25 years in business.
Helena Gonzalez told the Guardian: “For the time being we are going to reflect and consider our next step.”
The firm has seen a steady growth in demand over recent months but opted to keep the price the same so as not to “take advantage of a critical situation for our own gain, even if we have the most to lose” …
“As people become more aware that foie gras was just an easy target in a larger agenda, they want to show their support.”
Those against the ban accuse its authors of hypocrisy, pointing towards other farming practices that they claim are crueller to livestock. But animal rights activists have revelled in the win, with some gate-crashing foie gras dinner parties, holding banners asking “How much cruelty can you swallow?” and chanting “That’s not dinner, that’s diseased liver”.
Bryan Pease, co-founder of the Animal Protection and Rescue League, said: “Foie gras is a barbaric product. It never should have existed. It certainly should not exist now in 2012.
“Culture, tradition – none of it justifies torturing an animal.” …’
Read the item in full and add your comment online at www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/jun/30/california-foie-gras-off-menu