When I first spent time at the CIA, one course I took was taught by a woman named Eve Felder. I wrote about the class, and her, and by the time I returned to the CIA she'd become one of the academic deans. Eve, a former Chez Panisse chef, is probably the most humane-minded chef I've ever met. The depth of her care for students, for chefs, for our food, for cooking and for the earth seemed to me then and now to be boundless.
So I asked her where she stood on the foie gras issue, and here's what she emailed back:
Thanks, Michael. No, I do not have an issue with foie gras. My philosophy in most everything is that one has to experience what another person (or animal) is experiencing prior to making an informed judgement.
When I was a young chef, I spent about a week on a foie gras farm in the Dordogne valley in France. I spent days force feeding ducks.
The experience I had in France is that they fed the ducks a warm mash of corn, water and duck fat that was administered through a funnel.
The funnel had a wire in it that helped to expedite the mash from the sides and through the tube. The wire moved when you pressed a peddle with your foot. Sort of like a sewing machine.
I sat in a comfortable small straw lined corral with 6 ducks in 6 corrals on a small stool. The warm mash was poured into the funnel. I held the duck under one of my legs and extended its' neck upwards and gently opened its' mouth and inserted the tube to about the top of the chest. As I pressed the machine with my foot, I gently pulled the funnel up until the bird's throat was filled with mash.The funnel moved across the ceiling from corral to corral.
It was an extremely gentle and intimate experience. The animal does not have a gag reflex. They always waddled away perfectly happy and full and ready for a nap.
As you know, I'm sure, ducks naturally gorge prior to migration. They are genetically programmed to make sure they are full for their ultimate flight. People who are taking issue with this have attacked a very small artisinal industry that is easy to target. I am actually heartsick that they have made such inroads. What will be next?