(by Michael Ruhlman, guest blogger)
This morning Bourdain called my cell and said, “Ruhlman, I’ve got upsetting news.”
He wasn’t kidding.
Apparently a New Jersey politician, freshman assemblyman Michael Panter, next week will introduce a bill to ban the SALE of foie gras in and out of state.
Not only would this put out of business or force the relocation of Ariane Daguin’s D’Artagnan–which would be a blow to the entire tri-state area and beyond and the countless restaurants that rely on D’Artagnan for foie-based products–but it would be a dangerous encroachment on the rights of New Yorkers and New York City chefs to eat what they want and cook what they want.
The whole issue of what happens to Daguin and her highly respected company, around whom the fine dining scene has grown during the past two decades she’s been in business, is an important one that should be looked at separately.
But if the rumor is true, the foie brouhaha has reached New York in a serious way. And it’s bad. The foie issue embodies the hypocrisy and corruption of so much of how our government operates. That our public officials continue to spend their time and our dollars on this is ludicrous. If they cared about their state and their country, they would address the catastrophe of how we’re raising agri-hogs. That’s truly inhumane. We’re trashing our land and water, growing crappy food, contaminated chicken, feed lot beef and creating lakes of sewage polluted with e coli that gets on our spinach and kills our kids.
It’s a good rule to live by: don’t shit where you eat. But that’s exactly what we’re doing on a massive scale. So what do you do if you’re a local congressman? You outlaw a product that has little if any environmental impact, a product that few people buy, but that raises your stature and makes you look like a noble protector of all things cute and fuzzy.
Chicago’s been through this. Now Jersey–living up to its cliché. Chicago been a laughingstock among people throughout the country who understand the issues. Its mayor is endorsing a REPEAL of the silly law that bans foie gras sales there. An article in today’s trib describes how the pro-ban factions are struggling, in the face of widespread ridicule, not to lose ground. The city is not enforcing the ban anyway, so it’s largely symbolic. But symbols are important.
And right now, foie gras banning is becoming a symbol of ignorant politicians grandstanding on issues they scarcely understand while the real horrors of our food supply go neglected, and continued silence is bought and paid for by agribusiness lobbying.
I’ve made myself clear on this issue before: more no-nothings in government telling me what I’m allowed to eat, corrupt government ignoring the agricultural catastrophes while taking self-promoting potshots at fundamentally humane businesspeople and farmers makes me mad. If this law happens it promises the beginnings of change in the restaurant scene in New York City for the worse–this, the most diverse and dynamic restaurant city on earth. That in itself is bad. But all that such a bill would portend is truly scary.
If this bill happens we need to use its indulgent foolishness to shine more light on the real problems with our food supply. And they don’t have anything to do with foie gras.