The Foie Gras Battle Has Just Begun

Foie Gras Torchon | Photo: djjewelz/Flickr/Creative Commons License

It sounds like a plan Zack Morris would come up with:

Screech: "But Principal Belding says we can't sell Buddy Bands on school grounds or we'll risk suspension."

Slater: "Then how are we going to make enough money to produce the Zack Attack demo album, preppie?"

Kelly: "If we can't sell Buddy Bands, we're doomed."

Zack: "Wait a minute, everyone. Belding said we can't sell them. He never said anything about giving them away for free..."

Throw in a Lesson To Be Learned side-plot with Jessie popping some pills and you got yourself an instant-classic episode of Saved by the Bell. But this kind of scheme is actually happening right now all around California, hatched by a much more rambunctious and incorrigible bunch than our friends at Bayside High: Restaurants that serve foie gras.

Ever since California's ban on foie gras started last July, places that specialize in the French delicacy have been trying to find, let's say, "inventive ways" to still have the dish on their menus. And last week, one of those methods was outed after PETA -- destroyers of fun that they are -- filed a lawsuit against Hot's Kitchen in Hermosa Beach. The charge: Trying to skirt around California's newly-implemented foie gras ban by giving it away for free.

Before you start to think that Hot's skipped the first day of Business 101 where you learn that you actually need to sell things in order to make money, the "deal" of "a complimentary side of foie gras" only comes with a specific dish on the menu, "THE Burger." That side isn't so complimentary once you realize customers are still paying about $13 for the burger, the same price the original version of their foie-laden "THE Burger" was going for before the ban took effect. And, well, you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes (classic or BBC) to understand what's going on here.

The owners of Hot's, for their part, aren't being bashful about their intentions. Since day one of the ban, they've been on the front lines of trying to get it repealed, even going so far as to file a lawsuit against the state of California to get it overturned. Their reasoning:

"The statute defines 'force feeding' as using a process that causes a bird to 'consume more food than a typical bird of the same species would consume voluntarily.' In practice, the vagueness of this purported standard makes it impossible for anyone to know at what point a particular bird has been fed 'more food' than the bird feeding law allows."

Also, they've released this pretty great "get-out-of-my-face" comment to PETA following the recent skirmish:

"Publicity stunts such as the filing of an outrageous, baseless lawsuit, followed by the issuance of press releases are nothing more than an attempt to exploit the media by stoking controversial flames and are designed to line the pockets of profiteers."

Yowza. This kind of nasty back-and-forth between the defenders of foie and the animal rights activists is just beginning. The legal fights are going to keep on dragging out and dragging on, lawsuits followed by counter-lawsuits followed by eventual ballot propositions leading to ever more propositions. The fight for foie gras isn't going quietly into the night.

Which is to ask: What do you all think about this? Last time I asked, you voted overwhelmingly to oppose the foie gras ban, to let people eat what they want. But has the actual implementation of the ban changed your mind at all? Should restaurants try to get it overturned by going the more legislative route of lawsuits and court cases? Or is this an issue that needs to be confronted through more guerrilla tactics like Hot's and the like have been doing with their "complimentary" offerings? What say you?


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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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Foie Gras is a disease, not a delicacy. If you have never seen the process behind this "fatty liver" by whatever name it is called, you owe it your own health to watch this 5 minute video narrated by Roger Moore for the whole story, before eating foie gras again. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32815SIgq1A