Jillian on Fox LA just mis-pronounced Frogua….
And today my Number One Hors D’oeuvres (arduves?) Girl just sent me the bill for the party where we did the "frogua moose".
Big news today: Wolfgang Puck is no longer serving frogua….because he cares about cruelty to the ducks. Jillian says, “Screw the ducks….the cruelty is in making ME eat it…..Caviar is cruel too! To me!”
Chicago has banned foie gras. Our friend Michael Ginor, from Hudson Valley Foie Gras (the gold standard of American foie) was forced to help write the statute that will make foie gras illegal in New York in 2010, or sometime soon…..
I am sitting here mystified. Wolfgang I can understand. He needs a little new press to distract from that unfortunate giving hepatitis to everyone at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party thing.....Funny: both issues are liver-related.....
Meanwhile, if you get a bunch of high end chefs.....say among the top 100..... together to knock out some menus…..or if you decide to drive through a country filled with high end chefs…..say: France, Spain, Italy, England, Germany, America, Mexico…..you are gonna run across foie gras….a lot.
In our three weeks in Spain (which most Americans think of in terms of bullfights and paella…as opposed to the high tech paradise that it is….) Amanda and I ran across foie roughly twice a day. That is an average. There were Four Foie Days.....
Foie is the ultimate combination of fat and protein we currently have available to us on Planet Earth.
Let me digress…..God knows THAT never happened before…..
I knew Julia Child. We did a party together, and she used to eat in my old restaurant in The Barnyard in Carmel. The last time I served her she, obviously, wanted to know what was on the menu that was cool. She would always eat two entrées, so there were some decisions to be made. I mentioned the Bobby Veal Loin….from a calf that was not locked in a cage in the dark and fed pale food, but a grass-fed calf that had been abandoned by its mother and therefore.....
Julia interrupted me: “Young man….All things considered…..I don’t give a SHIT about a COW…..What does it taste like? What is the preparation?”
One of my first jobs was working for a French restaurant in Upstate New York, L’Auberge du Cochon Rouge. Our Mentor Chef, Etienne Merle, believed in doing things the old fashioned way….well, actually back then it wasn’t the old fashioned way yet. The Auberge ("country inn" in French) truly was a country inn. We had a pond, a barn, pigs, a garden….and ducks. Turkeys even.
In the French world view nearly everything visible is also edible in principle. (The fact that all things visible are also fuckable is the subject of another digression). And so it was with the ducks....the edible part anyway.
At the appropriate season, the more impecunious staff was mustered for the duck slaughter. The ducks were happily living in the pond and in pens around the Auberge. Our first task was to gather them up. Another initial task was to build a fires under the porcelain bathtubs we had dragged under the old clothesline. One tub was to be 145 degrees, the second was to be 140 degrees….(Fahrenheit, you American peasants…….)
The process was this: 1) muster the ducks, 2) grab one, hook its feet in a wire attached to the cable on the clothesline, 3) stab it under the chin with a paring knife so that the blade cut the connection between the medulla and the spine but didn’t kill it....this kept the feathers loose somehow; 4) drop it in Tub 1; 5) drop it Tub 2; 6) move it on to a work table where workers maniacally ripped off all the feathers in detail; 7} rehang the duck on the clothesline and send it on to the gutting station.
This was not as physically hard as you might think. The ducks completely cooperated. They even lined up for slaughter......in an actual line like the supermarket. (The plucking was another matter….For duckplucking, think Sheepdog odor times ten, plus the superhot water pouring into your rubber gloves, and the whole breathing in duckdown thing…..)
The ducks in the line would actually limp on occasion, hoping to draw pity from us slaughterers…..Like we needed another guilt trip. But they stayed in line…..like little feathered Republicans following the dominant paradigm…..
There is a classic and definitive French expression: “Pas de pitié pour les canards boiteux…” that comes from this exercise.
“No pity for limping ducks.”
In English: “Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke…..” This may or may not say more about French people than ducks….
Unbeknownst to Merle we liberated a few ducks out over the fence into the cornfield….and, ashamedly, when we could no longer deal with plucking another dead duck….and they too went into the cornfield.
The worst job I ever had…..and I have some BAD jobs......
My Amanda loves birds. My office window looks out onto the Boston Market of Birds. We have finch feeders, suet feeders, hummingbird feeders, who knows what the fuck feeders. We have bird baths the Romans would like. She gets up before dawn to take care of her birds. She spares no expense or trouble. She knows more about her birds lives and sexual habits than Kitty Kelly knows about the Bushes.
Today I looked out and saw the fattest finch in history sitting on the rock in the near birdbath…..looking seriously hung over. He was FAT. His throat was still bulging from all the seed that he had eaten that there was no more room for down below. He looked like Rush Limbaugh at an oxycontin convention. This was Foie Gras Finch……
Here is the deal…..Ayla of the Clan of the Cave Bear did not invent foie gras while she was inventing fire, domesticated animals, pharmacology, hot sex and modern weaponry. The fucking birds invented foie gras the same way the Irish and Russians invented cirrhosis and the Pumas invented morbid obesity: they were following Nature’s call.
Migrating ducks descend on ripe grain and eat the fuck out of it until they can barely move….to store enough fat in their livers and elsewhere to make it through the migration and the winter. The ones who can’t move are grabbed by savvy hunters of whatever species, who have a wonderful time with the grossly distended livers….and perhaps make it through their own migrations and winters. In modern times the hunter is a cardiologist, and he just has to make it through the malpractice suit and the IRS audit….but that is another story.
If you are a meat eater….you are eating pain and death. It doesn’t matter if you eat chicken nuggets, free range Rocky chicken, Wagyu beef, Provimi veal, wild salmon, farmed Idaho trout, whatever.
A creature lived….and then died so you could eat it. Get over it!
Seriously: buy or borrow a copy of "The Omnivore's Dilemma". Read it. Give it to your friends.
If you are squeamish about the way your protein comes to you, become a vegetarian…..it is not that hard. And even then….what about Little Bobby Broccoli? Torn from the ground before he could ever germinate. What a cruel world.
If not…then you are fucking hypocrite of the worst caliber. Someone call Wolfgang Puck up and have him come along with me to a cattle branding. We grab the adolescent steers, gangbang them down to the ground, cut their balls off and fry their skins with hot irons. The only anaesthetic available is Jack Daniels…and the steers don’t get it...we do.
Go to a “free-range” chicken farm…..the free range part only kicks in after 10 weeks…..and it is a tiny door in the back of a giant chicken shed that leads out to a tiny lawn. Like the shuffleboard court at the old folks home where you sent Grandma. By the time the chickens are allowed out, they aren’t interested. Neither is Granny. Like the French ducks, they are in to their routine.
Foie gras is no different than any other meat that we eat….
It is a duck. If you are going to eat the thing to begin with….at least let it chow down like a teenager at the Reese’s factory before it goes down.
And, in the words of Julia Child….
"All things considered….who gives a shit about a duck?"