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Trotter and Tramonto square off over Foie Gras


Osnav
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I haven't been able to figure out the right time to give an opinion throughout this great discussion...

Julia Child said "Everything in moderation." I think that she was implying the entire scope of edible substance. She knew best, right?

The span of time that foie gras has been recognized as an edible item is pretty darn long. It was an idea in progress for a reason. And it proved itself to be a diserable food item.

My first chef gave me the entire history lesson on it as he cleaned a blood-free, 2-pound, Grade "A" lobe in front of me. He handled the foie with such care and made sure that I was learning every part of the process while understanding WHY you had to treat it that way. What it took for the product to be on the cutting-board was as important as the ripping-hot pan that would color both of its sides.

I learned about it. I cleaned it. I cooked it. and that first bite made all of it make sense. I bit, inhaled, savored, swallowed, and exhaled. I understood.

About a month ago, I ordered a Grade "A" lobe out of Quebec (i believe that canada is making the finest product in north america). I haven't worked with the product in so long that I missed the butterscotch smell on my fingers. I missed the speed and precision that it takes to work with an entire lobe. I missed the love and care that it takes to prep the product for cooking. I missed the ritual because it is an elaborate process. Like the farmer that raised that bird for my dollar, there is a process that needs to occur in order to "pay homage" to his work.

I did all of this within the walls of my dorm room.

My point? I guess I'm trying to say that if the love is a full circle, there is absolutely no harm.

Trevor Williams

-Kendall College-

Edited by KendallCollege (log)

eGullet Ethics Signatory

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I watched the process at a small, high-quality producer's in France. I saw no rod being used. A couple of cranks of what looked like a food-mill with a long spout--and that was it.

Did you notice if it had a screw/worm attached to the crank to push the food down? I've heard of that kind of apparatus, though I've not seen it except in pics.

(btw, your account was certainly the most amusing of the however many stories of visits I read while researching my piece)

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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I'll go for what tastes better, the traditional method. I don't lead an entirely unexamined life, but at a certain point I zone out on thoughts about the most humanely possible ways to treat ducks/geese raised for foie gras. I know I've eaten plenty of it and I will eat it in the future without visiting the farm where the goose or duck was raised. I also wear leather shoes and pollute the air daily by driving and smoking too many cigarettes. I'd wear a fur coat if I were an Inuk.

I'd love to do a taste test some day. I haven't tried any of the most-humane Label Rouge foie gras (at least not knowingly; I've only known about it explicitly for the last year or so), but it would be interesting to compare it side-by-side to HVFG, SFG, a Canadian foie, and an "industrial" French producer. Obviously some of you have done portions of this, but I haven't.

Something to look forward to :smile:

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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I'm pretty sure Paul Aussignac's father is actually a foie farmer in Gascony, and it's tended to be his foie they use at his restuarants. Whether or not they never force feed I have no idea but he has presumably has a very good idea what goes on... My one sample of their foie was, by the way, very good indeed. I'm also pretty much of the school that what industrial farming does to animals is so incomparably worse than force-feeding that it's a fairly minimal issue ethically, and its prohibition worrying for all the reasons everyone has already said....

Edited by alexhills (log)
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We also visited a fois gras farm on the way home from Bordeaux and it all seemed innocent enough. I agree with chefzadi when I say I don't experience even a tinge of guilt when I eat fois gras. It never struck me as a cruel activity, especially seeing what I did at the farm, which were big fat calm, happy, social, creatures.

A friend of ours grew up in Gascony, and most times when they come to visit I recieve a jar of what her parents put in jars that year. It's really delicious. I don't think they produce the fois, they have a good source for local good product. She says that anything larger than 400g. is going to suffer in quality, this is just what she has been raised to believe. The stories of artisanal vs. industrialized production fall in line with this.

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I watched the process at a small, high-quality producer's in France. I saw no rod being used. A couple of cranks of what looked like a food-mill with a long spout--and that was it.

Did you notice if it had a screw/worm attached to the crank to push the food down? I've heard of that kind of apparatus, though I've not seen it except in pics.

(btw, your account was certainly the most amusing of the however many stories of visits I read while researching my piece)

That sounds like the device that Sonoma Foie Gras used when they first started their original farm in the eighties. They brought them from Southern France where they had studied Foie Gras production. It's essentially a funnel with a long flexible tube and a soft teflon tip. There is a screw in the tube which moves the corn through the tube as it is turned. A scoop of corn mush is dumped in the top, the handler slips the tube down the ducks throat and turns the crank(or triggers a motor) to release the corn mix and evenly fill the neck as the tube is pulled up and removed. With practice it can be done very quickly and with virtually no distress to the bird. The same handler feeds the birds every day and they quickly learn to trust that they will not be harmed, making the process even easier.

SFG now uses a state of the art "dosing" machine. It is quite the contraption, a big mechanised cart that is computer controlled. The feed mix is stirred and fed into a tube. The computer controls the amout of food delivered to each bird. The dose is increased daily through the gavage cycle. A pneumatic piston has replaced the screw and the tube is rigid metal with a rounded tip. The handler gathers the duck, slips the tube down the neck, and triggers the dose as the tube is pulled up and removed, evenly filling the neck as with the funnel technique. This is a faster more efficient method than is possible with the older crank funnels. It takes just a few seconds per duck, and there is no distress involved. As soon as they are fed, they flap their wings in a sign of contentment and settle in to digest, or waddle around the pen with their colleagues.

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I'll go for what tastes better, the traditional method. I don't lead an entirely unexamined life, but at a certain point I zone out on thoughts about the most humanely possible ways to treat ducks/geese raised for foie gras. I know I've eaten plenty of it and I will eat it in the future without visiting the farm where the goose or duck was raised. I also wear leather shoes and pollute the air daily by driving and smoking too many cigarettes. I'd wear a fur coat if I were an Inuk.

I'd love to do a taste test some day. I haven't tried any of the most-humane Label Rouge foie gras (at least not knowingly; I've only known about it explicitly for the last year or so), but it would be interesting to compare it side-by-side to HVFG, SFG, a Canadian foie, and an "industrial" French producer. Obviously some of you have done portions of this, but I haven't.

Something to look forward to :smile:

I've been doing the taste test for about 20 years now. Though all of the foie gras is delicious, when cooked double blind side by side they are remarkably different. I only use "A" livers for this, the "b"s are a waste of time. Some brands "melt" more than others which is a food cost issue for some chefs. In general the HVFG melts less, has a barely more livery taste and a bit more chalky texture. The SFG (raised by Guillermo and marketed by Grimaud) tends to melt more but has a sweeter flavor with a more luxurious mouth feel. The winner last time for me was the Artisan "Methode a l'Ancienne". It is produced and sold directly by Guillermo at the same farm, in a different barn. These birds are fed the cooked corn recipe they used in the beginning and it gives the liver terrific flavor and texture. Too bad they're not currently raising Muscovy ducks. The Muscovy livers are the best of all, but more costly and difficult to produce than Moulard.

Still tasty, but not nearly as good in comparison, are the smaller factory raised livers. These are from ducks kept in small confinement cages and fed on a quick 9 day cycle that produces a liver good enough for canning but unlikely to be used in a fine kitchen. These are always imported, to my knowledge none are grown this way in the US. These lesser grade, much cheaper livers put a lot of price pressure on the 3 domestic farms.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The newspaper wins. That kind of story sells newspapers.

Lost in all those rounds was the sense of which was the better experience. In an attempt to set quantitative standards where none exists, the article steals the soul of each meal for me. I'm distracted by seeing the valet parking count for as much as the the whole meal up to dessert, not to mention by the subjectivity pasted on the unsound structure of the rounds. The idea of restaurants meals as a competition demonstrates that today's restaurant connoisseurs are less discriminating in the way they appreciate dining. Then again, I always miss other people's tongue in cheek. I give the article a 6.5.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 2 months later...
. . . wait a minute,

wouldnt it be nice if geese protectionists had the same enthusiasm for people?

I think you're on to something. If animals are worthy of protection and if someone is concerned about the ethical treatment of animals, you'd think there'd be a movement to teach ethics to animals. It doesn't have to be a dog eat dog world. It's not right for lions to eat lambs. I might add they should be educated to respect human life as well and not eat people, but one thing at a time. The jungle is an evil place. The jungle is wrong. It sets a bad example for the civilized world. I would volunteer for this work, but there's no foie gras in the jungle.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Nicely said, Bux.

I am actually appalled by the lengths to which activists will go to terrorize the rest of the population into "accepting" their diatribes.

One of my rants on the subject is here. I've just *had* it.

The thought that I will some day need to board a plane in order to enjoy one of my favorite indulgences is more than I can stand.

We are the highest members of the food chain. If you don't like it, or the methods involved, don't eat it.

Jennifer L. Iannolo

Founder, Editor-in-Chief

The Gilded Fork

Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Home of the Culinary Podcast Network

Never trust a woman who doesn't like to eat. She is probably lousy in bed. (attributed to Federico Fellini)

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It is time to silence these terrormongers whose deepest desire is for all of us to hug a bunny and pet a duck. I'll gladly do both — right before I coat them in spices and put them in my roasting pan

:laugh:

Nicely put Jennifer!

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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  • 4 weeks later...

Almost all food products are in some way detrimental to the health of the animal. In this day and age, "organic, friendly farming" only became popular 10 years ago. I visited one of those farms where the baby cows were locked in tiny pens, in complete darkness for the entire period of their short lives, yet it was on organic soil. Everything is fundamentally organic, every human is inherently greedy (otherwise we would have utopia). If Charlie Trotter has an issue with foie gras we should stop harping on him for it. Even if he is doing it for media attention, it's a nice gesture, it's one step that most have not made.

Edited by jenny scibelli (log)
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Jenny, I think you hit upon something important in your comment: It is, in the end, an individual preference. If a person disapproves of force-feeding ducks, then by all means, the person is free not to eat foie gras, serve it, or condone its production. The free market -- if left alone -- will take care of the rest. Patrons seeking foie gras can simply eat elsewhere when such a fancy strikes them.

What makes me hit threshold are the gangs of social police, whether they are hugging trees, ducks, or recycled goods. Many environmental and social causes have been built upon false premises and scare tactics, all done with the hidden agenda of forcing others to conform to some ideology that has been touted as the "moral" way to live. It gets worse with every year that goes by.

A bully is a bully, whether in the playground or at PETA headquarters.

(And Martin, thanks!)

Jennifer L. Iannolo

Founder, Editor-in-Chief

The Gilded Fork

Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Home of the Culinary Podcast Network

Never trust a woman who doesn't like to eat. She is probably lousy in bed. (attributed to Federico Fellini)

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  • 5 weeks later...

More from today's Chicago Tribune Here

[Excerpt added by moderator]

Aldermen weigh foie gras ban By Jason George, Tribune staff reporter

Published September 13, 2005, 2:27 PM CDT

Calling the practice of force-feeding ducks and geese so they can be slaughtered and harvested for their livers "brutal," a Chicago alderman today called for a law prohibiting restaurants in the city from serving foie gras.

More at the link above.
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More from today's Chicago Tribune Here

[Excerpt added by moderator]

Aldermen weigh foie gras ban By Jason George, Tribune staff reporter

Published September 13, 2005, 2:27 PM CDT

Calling the practice of force-feeding ducks and geese so they can be slaughtered and harvested for their livers "brutal," a Chicago alderman today called for a law prohibiting restaurants in the city from serving foie gras.

More at the link above.

And here we go again. Sigh. I know political discussion is not allowed on here, so I will bite my tongue, but suffice it to say I'm having to bite it REALLY hard.

Edited by Jennifer Iannolo (log)

Jennifer L. Iannolo

Founder, Editor-in-Chief

The Gilded Fork

Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Home of the Culinary Podcast Network

Never trust a woman who doesn't like to eat. She is probably lousy in bed. (attributed to Federico Fellini)

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food politics are allowed. It is the basic Democrat-Republican, Communist-Capitalist type of politics that are frowned upon. :smile:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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food politics are allowed. It is the basic Democrat-Republican, Communist-Capitalist type of politics that are frowned upon. :smile:

Don't you threaten me with a good time, Doc. :wink:

What bothers me is this Nanny State phenomenon that is slowly creeping into every area of our lives. The last place I want it to intrude is at my dinner table, dammit. It is not enough that I cannot get some of the wonderful wines I've discovered abroad, but now they are trying to take away the *one* indulgence I simply refuse to live without.

It makes me so angry I could swear in ten languages while wielding a large bat. Why an anti-foie gras law, but not an anti-chicken, beef, veal, <insert-food-here> law? Animals are on this earth to feed us. We are the top of the food chain. What part doesn't compute? My fear is that foie gras will only be a starting point.

ARGH!

As an addendum, I will add that, at its roots, this *is* a Communist-Capitalist debate (Nanny State vs. Free Market), so you may want to shut me up now. :smile:

Edited by Jennifer Iannolo (log)

Jennifer L. Iannolo

Founder, Editor-in-Chief

The Gilded Fork

Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Home of the Culinary Podcast Network

Never trust a woman who doesn't like to eat. She is probably lousy in bed. (attributed to Federico Fellini)

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I have to agree with Jennifer...where does this stop?

The part that bugs me the most, however, is that the same City Council that is thinking hard about a ban that would (supposedly) protect ducks & geese will still allow someone to sit at a bar or restaurant and blow cigarette smoke in my face. Amazing.

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I have to agree with Jennifer...where does this stop?

The part that bugs me the most, however, is that the same City Council that is thinking hard about a ban that would (supposedly) protect ducks & geese will still allow someone to sit at a bar or restaurant and blow cigarette smoke in my face.  Amazing.

Agreed. Almost nothing troubles me more than an important decision being left in the hands of politicians -- especially this particular group of politicians.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Some of the aldermen (who will be voting on the ban) had never heard of FG or knew what it was.

What disease did cured ham actually have?

Megan sandwich: White bread, Miracle Whip and Italian submarine dressing. {Megan is 4 y.o.}

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