Jump to content


participating member
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by derricks

  1. The California law, which also bans production and sale, includes every part of any bird raised for foie gras. I assume it's the model for the NJ law (as it has served as a model for the other bills that have popped up around the country--Washington's another example). Legs, breasts, beaks, whatever. I don't know how much of Ariane's inventory comes from foie gras products other than the livers.
  2. I'm about halfway through. It's largely a stitching-together of all those biographies and memoirs that are probably on your shelf unread. Careme, Pepin, Beard, Child, etc. It's well-written, and I'm enjoying it.
  3. Jensen, You should write the editor and see what she knows about the distribution channels. Often, as Bruce said, the editor is also the publisher is also the distributor. Note that you can subscribe to any given Edible and have it mailed directly to you. In fact, any Edible publisher would probably encourage you to do just that, as it represents guaranteed income.
  4. I write for Edible East Bay, and I'm sure Bruce Cole will pipe in, as he publishes and edits Edible San Francisco. Saveur not only praised Edible Ojai, they also praised the whole series (a franchise model, as Reneecat said) in a more recent issue. And the Edibles (as I call them) are now in some sort of partnership with Slow Food USA. The problem with the franchise model is that unless I've seen your local Edible, my knowledge about my local Edible won't translate to yours. Each one has its own editor and its own focus. Some are more homey, some run in-depth features. But each one is supposed to have some percentage of pieces written by local writers, and the focus for all of them is local foodsheds.
  5. Whereas most tasting notes in established magazines are boring in the extreme. Do you think any average consumer reads more than one of these? Do you pore over every tasting note in WS or the Wine Advocate? No traditional magazine will allow a writer to play with the form, to move beyond the current stodgy norm (which is itself a fairly modern invention) and make wine tasting notes more accessible to the public. It is left to those without a "professional" voice to explore new avenues (or certain professionals--Karen MacNeil comes to mind as an advocate of more interesting tasting notes). Most won't be improvements, most will actually be worse than the standard, but there always has to be some avenue for people to push beyond what the mainstream accepts. Leaflets, newsletters, and zines were previous avenues, and blogs are the current manifestation. I'm not denying that the world of blogs is littered with bad writers and pompous opinions (nor would I contrast that with the published experts), but traditional media are just that--traditional--and rarely move beyond their established forms. I don't have to sell subscriptions (or even ads) on my blog, so I experiment and play to move beyond the standard wine tasting note I have to write for my clients. Because I'm convinced that the modern tasting note is fairly useless to most of the wine buyers out there.
  6. To follow on Tom's comment (via Craig), some wine blogs are starting to get editors. Wine Sediments, part of the Well Fed network, comes to mind (I'm the editor at a sister site--Growers and Grocers). I don't know how much editing Mark Fisher actually does, but I know that I put some effort into making suggestions when my writers post into the staging area. My edits range from near rewrites, to a few word changes here and there. Which brings me to the general definition of a blog, since that's come up in a few posts. This is the standard view (a la Wikipedia): "a web-based publication consisting primarily of periodic articles, most often in reverse chronological order." The most common variant includes "written by one person or a small group of people." Yes, it's a vague definition, but it does encompass the millions of different species of blogs out there.
  7. Most of the ranking systems out there rely on quantity, not quality. Specifically, the number of links pointing to a site. This was a trend started by Google, whose PageRank system measures (among many other things) the links that come into a site. (As an aside, this idea was good at the time, but has now been so hopelessly compromised as to border on useless--it's common practice to set up "splogs" or spam blogs which do nothing each day but post a zillion links to one site). A far better indicator of quality is to find a blog you like, and find out which sites they recommend. But Alder, for instance, who most would consider the "best" wine blog out there, has links to all the wine blogs out there. Likewise Becks and Posh, one of the most popular food blogs.
  8. Actually, the quip I heard was "famous for 15 people," a take-off of "Warhol's quote" (though I didn't know it was Ultra Violet who had actually said it).
  9. Which is very different than the interblog bitterness you alluded to with your comparison to musicians jealous of another's success. I don't deny that it exists, but I wouldn't call it widespread among food/wine bloggers.
  10. I'm not sure your Batttle Writing arena works as well as you think. Getting into that arena--magazines, newspapers, and books, I suppose you'd argue--requires more than writing talent. In fact, it often seems to not require much writing talent at all. Timing, connections, and a unique perspective are all factors. Usually more important than one's ability to turn a phrase. Blogs offer another ticket into what you view as "legitimate" or "professional" writing. I got my first magazine assignment in part because of a writing sample from my blog (though, in retrospect, I'm not sure how that swayed the editor--I'm a much better writer now than I was then). I know of five or six food bloggers who now have book contracts--publishers drool when they see the built-in platforms of the better-known bloggers--and expect wine bloggers to follow suit soon. How are these folks not legitimate again? edited to fix a typo
  11. One wonders if this whole debate happened when desktop publishing allowed anyone to push out newsletters from their home computer. Anyone remember? (I wasn't paying attention to food at the time) Small, unprofessional authors allowed to push out text without the blessing of the mainstream press? What will it mean? They don't have anything to say. Etc. It's not hard to imagine an earlier form of this debate, epees and all (though then it would've been held on BBS's). Most of those newsletters died out or had limited distribution, but Simple Cooking, The Art of Eating, and The Wine Advocate came out of those "nonprofessional" depths. I look at blogs the same way (except that they solve the distribution problem while simultaneously limiting the aesthetic experience). Some will become influential forces, most won't. At any rate, I don't think you can condemn them all in a blanket statement, because maybe you're overlooking the next AoE. It's important to note that many bloggers don't care about becoming an influential force. There's a great quip I saw recently--in the future everyone will be famous for 15 people. Most bloggers write for a small group and don't go out of their way to attract readers, despite JohnL's theoretically vast database of interblog sniping and griping. At any rate, it must mean something that wine blogging is finally getting the "journalism vs. blogging" debate that is so tired in other genres.
  12. I don't believe that bloggers deserve success just by virtue of being bloggers, but nor do I believe that "blogger" should automatically qualify one for scorn and derision. Some bloggers offer solid authority and good writing. Others don't. I don't like every wine magazine I've ever seen, and I don't like every blog I've ever seen. But I don't discount an information source just because it's a blog. (I should note here that my own blog exists solely as a way for me to practice writing; the fact that lots of people like to read it is a constant surprise to me. As Carolyn says, I much prefer getting paid for my writing, but I can write about lots of small topics I'll never get paid for, so I might as well use them as writing exercises.) As for internal grousing and the laments of the poor, ignored blogger...such are the complaints of artists everywhere throughout time. Bloggers merely perpretrate the tradition.
  13. As someone proud to call himself a food and wine blogger in addition to a professional food and wine writer, I find this discussion interesting (though also well-worn--this conversation is only just now making its way to the wine writing world but has been persistent in other arenas of news coverage for years now). I love the complaints about the "autobiographical" nature of wine blogging. Two of the most popular wine writers in the U.S. are John and Dottie at the Wall Street Journal. They are successful in large part because they talk about themselves and their lives in the column. Sure they also provide real information--so do a lot of wine bloggers. So why are they accepted--lauded even--while wine bloggers are not? Ignoring the fact that many bloggers aren't very good writers: After all some bloggers are far better writers than the bulk of "regular contributors" who deaden the mainstream media. The distinction between professional and nonprofessional is somewhat arbitrary. Do you consider Alder at Vinography.com a professional or a nonprofessional? He doesn't work in the wine industry in a professional sense, but he pulls in some money from ad revenue on his site, just like "professional" publications.
  14. Oh, sorry, should've explained the liver thing a bit more. By the time the duck goes to the Happy Pond in the Sky, certain liver metabolic pathways have just shut down. Others behave normally, and in fact some are performing at better-than-average rates. For those who have the EU study about foie gras around, most of this is covered in section 5.4 (finally! I looked something up), though it's a bit long to quote here. In terms of distension, do you mean the little pooch they get on their bellies? If so, I definitely noticed it in the birds at the very end of their gavage (I saw birds right at the beginning and right at the end, fewer in the in-between states), though it was consistent with the reports and photos of other foie gras ducks/geese in other areas, so I didn't think much of it.
  15. Those questions I was a little fuzzy about, but now that I search my memory a bit, I think HVFG and SFG both track at about 1-2% mortality rates. But I can't remember if that's just during gavage, or total. The number is on par with the rest of the foie gras industry (though caged foie gras birds run at about 3%, I think). Again, from memory (I should probably just unearth my notes and confirm all this), broiler poultry is about 10%. Lobes that I've seen from SFG seem to average around 1.1 lbs, or 600g. I thought that HVFG tended to get larger livers, due to a different feeding process (the ducks are ramped up more slowly), but it's been a while since I purchased any (SFG is, for obvious reasons, easier to find here in the Bay Area). See, I'm still fuzzy on these. My editor didn't give me any hard and fast space requirements, but he gave me a rough range to work with. Details I left out were probably just because they didn't fit easily into the text, in the same way that Ed left a lot of biological/physiological info out of his somewhat similar look at "good veal" a few issues prior. There are some things I wish I had put in now--mortality rates, and the very weird state the liver's in by the time the duck goes to the slaughterhouse--but those were more my omission than a requirement from Ed.
  16. Off the top of my head about Hudson Valley and Sonoma (Note, I haven't visited HV, but the production process is documented thoroughly in the Ginor book, Foie Gras: A Passion, and Ginor confirms this when you talk to him): Hudson Valley has an onsite incubation facility. Sonoma Foie Gras gets its chicks from Grimaud, one day out of the egg. Everyone in the U.S. uses Moulards these days, which are less susceptible to stress than Muscovies or geese. Sonoma Foie Gras's chicks spend five weeks in a large shed with access to the outdoors. This is largely so that they can be kept warm. They spend seven weeks in a large field outside before being brought into the gavage shed. I believe HVFG is similar, but don't know for sure. Corn, corn, and more corn. Outside the gavage shed, it's supplemented with soybean I believe. Inside the gavage shed, it's straight corn, cooked at Hudson Valley, raw at Sonoma, except for their Artisanal line, which is fed on cooked corn. They're kept in a pen (10-12 to a 25 sq. ft pen, IIRC). At Sonoma, the building is kept dark and cool (keeps the birds calmer). (Maybe at HV, too, but I don't know). AT HV and Sonoma, the ducks are held between a feeder's legs during the gavage. See above. Offsite for Sonoma Foie Gras, onsite for HV. Both told me that about 70% of their foie is Grade A. Grades B and C don't make much money but can be sold to restaurants for use in certain dishes (the duck/foie gras sausage at Bacar probably uses B or C, for instance), though I don't know how that equates to the cruelty or lack thereof of the process. Breasts, legs, tongues, beaks, bones and so forth are all harvested. Foie gras ducks produce 100% yield in France, about 70% in the U.S., according to Sonoma Foie Gras (the difference is that you rillettes aren't popular here and the feathers aren't allowed to be used for down). Raising a foie gras bird is _very_ expensive, and any farmer would try to get the most money possible out of these birds.
  17. Maybe, maybe not. I'm inclined to believe that the author looked at the issue carefully, and just couldn't come down on one side or another. Michael Saunders is similarly undecided in his account of foie gras production in From Here You Can't See Paris. And people have complained to me that they wish my foie gras piece had ended on a decisive note. I held off on the last paragraph because I knew people would expect some sort of decision. Finally, I couldn't make one and said so. While you can buy cows that have been raised humanely, etc., you can't buy foie gras made without force feeding the birds, so it is, in that respect, different enough to stay gray for me. So I don't think of it as a cop-out. But the assumption that a neutral stance equates to waffling is a common one.
  18. And I'd add, write for free as a last resort. Pubs are very accustomed to eager young food writers who are willing to work for free or close to it. If you lower your wages now, it'll come back to bite you later when you can't get paid adequately for your experience. I once heard a magazine publisher say they didn't need to pay me well because there were plenty of people who were lined up to write for nothing. You get what you pay for, I retorted. Unpaid food writing keeps the wages low for everyone. (And yes, I know sometimes writing for free is the only option--I've done it--and I know most magazines and newspapers don't have big budgets, but you'll set a bad precedent for yourself)
  19. This is a little cart-before-the-horseish, but once you're getting published (and I'll reiterate: don't give up!), try and find an editor who you really respect, and carefully watch how they work with your text. My writing has improved dramatically since working with a very meticulous, thoughtful editor (Ed Behr). He's usually considerate enough to leave my text and his in place so that I can see the change right away and understand why his version works. Largely because of him, I now have a mental checklist I use when writing a draft for any publication (and even my own site; I spend more time editing my blog posts than writing them). My experience with writing classes (which is not extensive) is that students are too polite to each other. You don't want polite; you want helpful. So look for teachers that other students describe as really hard or picky or tiring. Maybe s/he is just a tyrant, but there's a good chance you'll learn a lot from him/her.
  20. Which, just to clarify, is different than The Wine News, which is consumer oriented. (I'm sure Mary knows this; I'm just making the distinction for the rest of the readers).
  21. And across the Oakland Bay Bridge, Edible East Bay, which is of course part of the larger Edible Media universe.
  22. I should clarify: I don't believe the document is invalid. In fact, I think every participant in the debate should read the EU report, if only so that when someone inevitably quotes the passages you did, the person seeing the quote can understand that the ninety pages that precede them do not make the case as clearly as those passages would suggest. It'd also be nice if they realized that the document is not as comprehensive as one would like. (and yes, geese are mentioned throughout--just not in the part where it would be interesting to know they came running while ducks did not). But that does require digging a bit more, which few people have the time (or, lets be honest, obsessiveness) to do. The EU document is one view into the debate: I think one needs to read that _and others_ to get a more rounded picture, which I personally believe makes the issue much grayer than either side would really like. (edit: fixed a typo)
  23. Having read the document twice all the way through and several sections innumerable times, I'd suggest that the person who wants to know about foie gras should read the source papers this document references. The EU committee definitely had a bias, and it's evident in the language they use. The example that always comes to mind (though there are others that I found when I was much closer to the document) is their description of a study to determine if the birds come running to the feeder, as is often stated. (I think it's in section 5, though it's been a year since I've read it last) They explain the study, and tell you that the ducks did not voluntarily go to the gavage area even though they had been trained to think of it as the food place prior to the gavage. True enough. The ranch manager at Sonoma Foie Gras said essentially the same thing. But the EU committee never mentions that in the original study, they included geese as well. The geese, almost to a bird, went to the gavage area with no apparent hesitation. Curious omission, I thought, given that's the point they were discussing. Other language the EU doc uses is subtly deceptive, and frankly it bothers me more that they've made themselves seem unbiased by not revealing their backgrounds. Many (see edit notes) of the English members have connections to animal welfare groups. On the other hand, most of the French members are tied to the industry itself. Either side will tell you (though, alas, rarely on the record) that the other side hijacked the document at the last minute. But even they acknowledge that the ducks don't have any measurable stress (and yes, I know they assert that pain hasn't been studied). They also seem to make their pathology claim somewhat arbitrarily. So I agree that it's a good read, but it shouldn't be read as definitive. (edited: changed Most to Many, as I can't remember now if the English members were predominantly animal-welfare-associated or merely significantly so. Weasel word, I know, but more accurate, perhaps).
  24. Except, not to beat a dead duck/goose here, there's precious little evidence that they do suffer and a fair amount that they don't (assuming the most humane production methods). At least if you look at the research that's been done to date and agree with the definition of "suffer" being used as a benchmark (which, fair enough if you don't; it's obviously not something one can precisely define for all sorts of moral, physiological, social, etc. reasons). Admittedly, the research is more limited than one would like. Still. But you're correct that the liver is expanded almost to the breaking point, obviously to a state that it would never reach even if the bird were allowed to gorge itself of its own volition. And it's not a no-op for the bird. Certain liver functions shut down completely, others behave as normal, and still others actually perform better than normal.
  25. The report comes down on the side of the idea that gavage represents poor animal welfare, but doesn't call for a ban because of economic factors. It strongly encourages producers to look for alternate means for fattening the birds (and there's a good chance that the EU will call for a ban when the issue comes up again--2020? 2015?--it was pretty close by all accounts). I don't remember the reasoning; it's been close to a year since I last read it. But, like I said, I don't think their arguments hold as well for facilities without battery cages. Hm. I just noticed that I repeated myself, more or less. So I'd say that many members of the EU committee consider gavage in its current form to be inherently inhumane. But they were only focused on welfare (which they define within the report).
  • Create New...