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  Edition # 98  
San Francisco, 11-03-2012

Figure [1]: Pan-fried Foie Gras, jambo! Foto: Stuart Spivack

Angelika Starting July 1st, California has banned the sale of fattened duck liver. This culinary delicacy is known as Foie Gras, in the U.S. and France alike. Fattening the livers of geese and ducks is accomplished by force-feeding, and animal rights activists consider it cruelty to animals. The ban passed legislation all the way back in 2004, but for the following eight years, a transition and grace period was granted. According to estimates, up to 400 restaurants had the item on their menus in California. We've seen foie gras on many Napa Valley restaurant menus and must admit that we've always enjoyed eating it.

Allegedly, most restaurants now comply with the ban. But the law is somewhat ambiguous, as it only states that foie gras can't be sold, what led a few chefs to offer it for free. In this way, one restaurant had a "brioche" (pastry) on the menu for $21, that came with a free serving of foie gras. Although the fines are enormous ($1000 per violation per day) it seems as if the new law is hard to enforce, as the "Department of Animal Care and Control" in charge of the matter is chronically understaffed.

By the way, California is the only state in the entire U.S. prohibiting the sale of foie gras. There was a similar effort in Chicago a few years ago, which failed because the chefs there put up fierce resistance. Here in California, as you might have expected, we now have an ongoing battle between gourmets and animal rights activists. Shortly before the ban started, some Californian chefs presented eight course menus, each of which included some form of foie gras. Another example is the restaurant "Goos and Gander" in Napa Valley, which offered a foie gras dish named after the name of the ban legislation: "Senate Bill 1520". They took the item off the menu, however, when the press started reporting on it. Probably there's soon going to be an underground economy, similar to during prohibition times, when foie gras will only be available in dark speakeasy restaurants, if patrons know the secret code?

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