Screw You, Upton Sinclair (21st Century Foie Gras Edition)

Over at Doublethink, Baylen Linnekin drives deep into a plate of the most controversial organ meat:

No American food ban today is more contentious than Chicago's foie gras ban. That's why, prior to traveling to Chicago in the dead of winter earlier this year, I emailed Chicago Chefs for Choice, a group leading the fight against the ban.

That correspondence brought me to a warm, genial Chicago bistro owned by Didier Durand, a courageous French immigrant who wants to cook what his customers enjoy and who is fighting what may be America's dumbest prohibition.

Over one of the best and most forbidden meals of my life, Durand and his fellow chefs, their customers, and Don Gordon, a Democratic party candidate for alderman, spoke about the importance of defending individual rights in between bites of forbidden foie gras.

Read the rest of the conversation here.

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  • ||

    Who needs foie gras when you can have Chicken Surprise? mmmmm

  • ||

    And let's face it, non-residents like Baylen Linnekin really do know better than the people of Chicago as to how to run their city.

    Perhaps we could appoint Linnekin to decide the rules that all cities abide by?

  • ||

    I live in the 49th Ward and had the privilege of a front row seat for the race this Feb./Apr. between Don Gordon and Joe Moore (the foie gras bans sponsor in the city legislator). Joe Moore is the absolute worst kind of corrupt Chicago Democrat (I say this as a lifelong Democrat myself). The ward is a mix of aging (aging... aged!) hippies and low income minorities. There's a not insignificant crime problem tied to drugs and gangs, and yet Moore's biggest concern is with stupid crap like this. He was right in line with the smoking ban, as well as the sponsor and champion of the proposed big box ban (which, given the wording of the proposal and the realities of Chicago real estate density, was a complete joke regardless of where you stood on it.)

    That said, Gordon wasn't exactly an ideal candidate. He came off as having some pretty deep race problems, was generally a grouchy scold, and now, having lost the election, has filed an outlandish lawsuit to have a court invalidate half of the Ward's precincts (the half that voted for Moore).

    I love the neighborhood and love Chicago in general, but politically, it's like some libertarian nightmare. Luckily, it gets to the point of a perfect storm of corruption and impassible beaurocracy, where things are so ridiculous that most of the sillier shit is just ignored and unenforced.

  • ||

    barris is right

    The politicans who "run" the city know more about how restaurants should be run than the locals who own the restaurants and the locals who eat at those restaurants.

    We should also ask the politicians what food we may cook in our own kitchens - just to be on the safe side.

  • Ashish George||

    ""If you don't agree, or you don't like foie gras, don't eat it," he says. "We don't push that on you. Today [the protestors] were all vegetarian," he notes. "When you pull a vegetable out of the ground, or when you eat raw asparagus, it's kind of sad. The vegetables are also living. And when you throw them in a pot of boiling water to cook them, I think it's kind of ruthless. But I'm not looking to ban vegetarians. I think we should all cooperate and live together."

    Sorry, this is just as absurd as anything you could find from an animal rights activist. Vegetables don't have nervous systems comparable to ours; mammals and birds do. The why-don't-you-vegetarians-pity-the-carrots retort is the ethics of food equivalent of the observation that we'd all be speaking German or Japanese now if it weren't for FDR and Truman.

  • x,y||

    What gives the City of Chicago legitimate jurisdiction over the city limits?

  • ||

    "The why-don't-you-vegetarians-pity-the-carrots retort is the ethics of food equivalent of the observation that we'd all be speaking German or Japanese now if it weren't for FDR and Truman."


    So...if one of those observations happens to be true, then they both are?

  • Ashish George||

    Actually they're both howlingly stupid and lazy claims made by people who aren't willing to confront certain practices head on (the conditions of the contemporary factory farm and the war crimes of wartime presidents).

  • ||

    At the end of the day meat production is an ugly business no matter how it is approached. I've raised animals and slaughtered them and it's just not pretty. That said, I'd sure prefer the pampered life of a foie gras goose (even with the final three weeks of gavage) to the life of a battery hen or a crated pig. This is not about animal welfare at all. It's about class envy. Once I get a little more space I plan to force feed a few geese. Foie gras is lovely stuff.

  • anon.||

    Dan T. apparently thinks that anyone who isn't subject to a particular law is incompetent to argue convincingly against it.

  • highnumber||

    Friends went to a very nice restaurant a couple of weeks ago. Let's say it's one of the top rated restaurants in the world, let alone Chicago. They did the 24 course tour. I told my buddy that there was no way they would get a foie gras course, because the restaurants avoid the ban by offering it complimentary with a $20 salad. Tru doesn't avoid the ban - they brought another chef in to make a "faux gras" course from a chicken liver (!).
    Anyway, so I told him no way would they serve real foie gras where he was going. Sure enough, despite all 24 courses being included in the one price, they were brought an extra course, "compliments of the chef."

    Daley will have the ban repealed soon.

  • Gray Ghost||

    What bob mologna said. This is class envy.

    I support your right to feel uncomfortable with people eating meat. I support your right to not do it. And I support your right to tell people the truth about what goes on at farms and slaughterhouses. I do not support using the state to mandate your version of acceptable behavior in this area.

    I've butchered more than a few animals as a hunter and as someone who spent a few summers in farm country. I wish more people could see where meat comes from, get up to their elbows in it. Work cattle, at the time where branding/castrating/vaccinating happens, and then talk to me about cruelty in fois gras production.

    At least in hunting, I tried to make the end for the animal as quick and as painless as I know how. Which is why, I practiced frequently, knew the vital areas on the animal, and did not take shots that I felt had a good chance of causing the animal undue pain.

    I've not had the fortune of working on a fois gras operation, but don't the geese follow the guy with the feed tube around? Isn't it the case that fowl are designed to gorge, much more than we are, and so it isn't especially cruel for them? Not crueler than being raised for slaughter anyway?

  • ||

    Thanks to Big Oil, I'm driving a thousand miles to Chicago this weekend. Can anyone recommend some places, reasonably priced, that I can score some? I've never tried fois gras, but I love to mash my chicken livers with mayo and worchester sauce.

  • Ashish George||

    "This is class envy."

    No. Foie gras, unlike ham or beef or chicken, isn't a widely consumed food staple. So some of the people who ban it believe it's all right to ban a product that only a few people will miss if it's gone. It's a question of popularity, not class envy. However, I do agree that if those people were consistent, they would be equally moved to act by the cruelty that goes into producing ham, beef, and chicken.

    "I support your right to feel uncomfortable with people eating meat. I support your right to not do it. And I support your right to tell people the truth about what goes on at farms and slaughterhouses. I do not support using the state to mandate your version of acceptable behavior in this area."

    Why not? What distinguishes this "version of acceptable behavior" from versions of acceptable behavior that regulate child labor or plain vanilla animal abuse? If you stipulate that this is just a personal preference then you're begging the question(assuming precisely what needs to be established) against opponents of foie gras who think that what's at stake goes beyond a mere lifestyle choice.

  • highnumber||

    James Ard,
    I doubt any restaurants within the city limits have it on the official menu, and I doubt they would cop to it over the phone. You could try any French bistro and ask about it when you're there. I like La Sardine in the West Loop because it's not in a crazily crowded neighborhood, but there are great bistros all over the city. Just outside the city, Hemmingway's Bistro in Oak Park serves it legally. They are very reasonably priced. Great, cozy atmosphere, too.

  • ||

    Thanks highnumber. Do you have any sausage suggestions? Down here in Louisiana everybody makes it, but I suspect Chicago has some good ones.

  • Tony||

    ...but don't the geese follow the guy with the feed tube around?

    No. The geese are usually in tiny cages barely larger than their bodies, and the metal tubes are forced down their throats. This can cause many different types of injury to the bird's beak and throat. Search around, you can find pictures.

  • Baylen||

    Go to Cyrano's Bistro in River North. It's where I ate when writing the piece, and the food's exceptional.

  • ed||

    I've never had the forbidden protein. Can I get it at my supermarket, or must I travel to the City of Big Shoulders for this avian aversion? Does it really taste better if a lot of people talk about it?

  • highnumber||

    James Ard,

    Chicago has two sausages:

    The Italian sausage, which is best enjoyed as a "combo" with the Italian beef (and cheese if you have a healthy ticker.)
    and
    The Polish sausage (an all-beef product, different than what is served elsewhere), which is meant to be enjoyed "Maxwell style," properly served with grilled onions and mustard.

    I suppose the Chicago style dog is a sausage, too.

    Any of these can be found at any of the beef stands that are everywhere around the city and surrounding area. Look for "Vienna Beef" signs in the window. Seriously, we have more of these little stands than we have McD's, Burger King, Wendy's, Taco Bell, KFC, Popeye's, etc. put together. Some are better than others, but everyone has a favorite.

    Have fun in Chicago. If you have time, I recommend checking out Millennium Park. It's amazing. Skip Navy Pier. It's no different than the giant tourist trap mall in every big city (except the Ferris wheel - that's pretty neat, and the boat tours are cool, I guess, but the architectural river tour is really better than the lake tours).

    And Cyrano's, although I have never been, does have a great reputation and, if you are staying downtown, River North is very easy to get to (if rather touristy).

  • ||

    highnumber, just one more thing. My wierd karma dropped my annual Art Institute of Chicago order in my lap today. How hard would it be for me to deliver my labels to the hipsters at their library on Monday? Is traffic and parking difficult, and is the display even open on Monday? UPS would probably be easier, but the timing must mean something.

  • highnumber||

    Is it at the school or the museum?

    Either way traffic & parking are bad, but if you are staying downtown, it's not really a big deal to walk or cab it. If you are staying near O'Hare, good luck!

  • ||

    I'm guessing its the school. We'll be downtown, so I'll just make my wife and kids circle the building until I'm finished smoozing. There will be a meaty reward for their efforts. Thanks!

  • ||

    Leave Upton Sinclair out of this, Nick. Upton didn't give a damn about foi gras. He just objected to human beings being sold as Durham's Pure Leaf Lard! Upton Sinclair was EPIC! (End Poverty In California) And remember! Chicago will be ours! Chicago will be ours!

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    The why-don't-you-vegetarians-pity-the-carrots retort is the ethics of food equivalent of the observation that we'd all be speaking German or Japanese now if it weren't for FDR and Truman.

    I believe that it was offered tongue in cheek to make a point.

    An actual point would be that when you plow up a field to plant veggies real live animals die and are deprived of their homeland.

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    High & James, Mrs TWC was in Chi-Town last year (am I allowed to call it that? Or is that a huge Foie Gras that just pisses the natives off?).

    Heartland invited her to speak at their 2006 Educational Choice Speaker Series at the Metropolitan Club in the Sears Tower. She did a little sight seeing while there. It was her first time and she loved Chicago.

    Her favorite was the the architectural river tour. Two thumbs up from an out of towner. It was summer and she also enjoyed strolling along the water.

    You know I usually reserve my Braggin' On The Old Lady for my own website and emails and I just previewed this and realized that I been doing some serious braggin'. I'm gonna leave it in though. :-) Thanks for indulging me.

    She hates that too, if she sees this I'm on the couch tonight.

  • Ashish George||

    "An actual point would be that when you plow up a field to plant veggies real live animals die and are deprived of their homeland."

    All right, two questions...

    (1) Is the number of animals who die during the cultivation of land as large or bigger than the number who die in factory farms?

    (2) Are the animals who die as a result of this cultivation of land kept inside cramped, filty conditions before their death so that their entire lives are basically a miserable prison sentence?

    The answer to the first is probably no and the answer to the second certainly is, although if you have evidence to the contrary I'd like to see it.

  • ||

    Since you asked....

    "(1) Is the number of animals who die during the cultivation of land as large or bigger than the number who die in factory farms?

    (2) Are the animals who die as a result of this cultivation of land kept inside cramped, filty conditions before their death so that their entire lives are basically a miserable prison sentence?"

    Who really gives a toss? I'm a flippin' carnivore mate! If I still had the space I'd raise and eat my own livestock. I haven't the space and the so called "free range" products are overpriced and little different from factory farming; so I'll eat meat without compunction. Christ on a bike! The sanctimonious attitude.

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    Aw George, you already know the answer to those questions.

    I didn't know we were arguing about factory farms. I might even lean your way on that kind of stuff.

    I thought you were calling the guy's carrot remarks absurd and I was merely pointing out that he was probably being facetious to make his point.

    Then I threw in the snarky remark to illustrate that vegetarianism isn't entirely without animal cost.

    Then I'll finish off with a question for you.

    If it is only about the number of animals who die (degree or volume of harm), then is there anything wrong with eating just a little meat? If you raised that pig at home?

  • ||

    Um, excuse me, is there some kind of libertarian argument against even wanton cruelty to animals? If there is, I'm not aware of it. I personally find cruelty abhorrent, but they're someone's else's geese. As a side note, I'm with the guy that thinks the geese don't really mind too much, so I'm not really sure this is cruelty in any case.

  • Ashish George||

    "If it is only about the number of animals who die (degree or volume of harm), then is there anything wrong with eating just a little meat? If you raised that pig at home?"

    If you raised the animal at home under healthy conditions (proper food and water, good veterinary care, room to roam around, sunlight and time outside, etc.-- basically the exact opposite of a factory farm), it's a lot less objectionable than meat from the factory farm.

    I still killing animals is wrong though. Since we can fulfill all our dietary needs without using animal products, there's no need to take away the life of an innocent creature.

    "It is the position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."

    http://www.adajournal.org/article/PIIS0002822303002943/fulltext

    "Um, excuse me, is there some kind of libertarian argument against even wanton cruelty to animals?"

    I'm inclined to think there is. But if there's not, that's a strike against libertarianism, not the regulation of human treatment of animals.

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    I still [think] killing animals is wrong though.

    Well, that brings us back to my point.

    Plowing the ground squirrels under, destroying gopher habitat, and doing what is necessary to ensure that rats, rabbits, and other assorted vermin don't eat your veggies before you can get 'em in the steamer is wrong. It's just not as wrong as BBQ pork or fillet of corporate farmed chicken. I guess there are degrees there, not like being a little preggers.

    And, Hashish George, believe me, you haven't lived until you've seen three or four rabbits level a six foot patch of corn in a half hour. I've got rats around here that will eat through galvanized flashing I put around the peach tree trunks to get at those peaches. Without the flashing they'll strip a tree bare overnight. I mean they are relentless.

    That's why I have cats now. They aren't as humane as the rat traps where I'd trap them live and then drown them. But the cats are a heck of lot more effective. So effective that there's lots more peaches for the birds to eat now.

    Tell me why the dam birds will sample every peach instead of just sticking to the good one they already peckered.

    It's a wonder our fargin' ancestors ever had anything to eat.

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    It is the position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

    and Red Wine.

  • Scooby||

    It's a wonder our fargin' ancestors ever had anything to eat.

    When our ancestors found a peach that had been sampled by a bird, they ate it- without even eating around the "bad" spot. And they liked it. They'd also fight the cats for the rats. That's good protein, there.

  • Matt||

    "An actual point would be that when you plow up a field to plant veggies real live animals die and are deprived of their homeland."

    That's not really valid either, because most farm animals are fed a (roughly) vegetarian diet, which requires similar planting and harvesting. That sort of destruction occurs in either model, so even assuming it's a constant, the net result of eliminating meat production is still less animal death/suffering. However, it may not be a constant, because meat production is fairly inefficient, so a large scale shift to vegetarianism would likely require fewer such farms to begin with.

  • highnumber||

    TWC,

    Oddly enough, the only Chicagoans I have ever heard use the term "Chi-town" have been rappers. Unless you're a rapper, using that term gives you away like saying "Frisco" in San Fran. I have no idea why Kanye, Common, et al are permitted. Poetic license, I suppose.

  • highnumber||

    TWC,

    BTW, your wife always sounds ultra-cool when you talk about her. Good for you! (If I wasn't very happily married, I'd ask if she had a sister. Don't tell me!)

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    High,

    Thanks, Mrs TWC is pretty cool, I coulda done a lot worse (actually I have done a lot worse a few times).

    Mrs TWC has a TWIN sister. Her twin sister is married with 4 kids under five however. :-)

  • Xanthippas||

    Over one of the best and most forbidden meals of my life, Durand and his fellow chefs, their customers, and Don Gordon, a Democratic party candidate for alderman, spoke about the importance of defending individual rights in between bites of forbidden foie gras.

    Well, it's not quite on par with dumping tea in the Boston harbor, but you take your acts of civil (and tasty!) disobedience where you can get them.

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