Foie: One chef’s response

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?

Dreaming of the Christmas goose

It's broiling hot today in New York City, and as I scurried around the greenmarket attempting to buy some tomatoes before I burst into flame, I noticed a sign at Tamarack Hollow Farm. Tamarack is one of the nicest vendors at the market. When I bought my first pork shoulder, I asked the vendor how to prepare it. He gave me some directions, then pointed to the label on the package. "If you have any problems, call my wife. She'll walk you through it." Culinary phone support included in pork purchase price! Who knew?

Anyway, today's sign said something to the effect that orders were now being taken for duck, goose, smoked ham, and suckling pig for delivery from September 1 through the end of the year. As I walked home, I imagined what I could do with a suckling pig. Then in the stifling heat, my thoughts drifted to goose and I longingly imagined December's snow and icy air, the scent of pine trees, and the fun of having family over for a lovely Tamarak roast goose for Christmas dinner. A huge bead of sweat stung my eye and snapped me from my reverie. It's a 102° and I'm thinking about Christmas goose. I'm tempted to head right back over there and place my order, if only it weren't so hot outside.

Apparently yesterday's meat cake is…

Apparently yesterday's meat cake is not the only meat cake in the world. Mark McClusky emailed to share a picture of his annual meat cake. Since 1997, he's been making one for a friend's birthday. This idea is so genius, I will get started on one as soon as the heat wave breaks. I'm picturing an all-cake dinner party starting with some kind of baby appetizer cakes, then meat cake, then dessert cake. Maybe a cheese cake (ha ha) in between?

Update: I've received two emails since posting this. One had the subject "sympathetically beefy" and I thought it must be someone interested in meat cakes. Alas, it was spam. The second pointed out that Martha makes meat cakes too! Those peas in the frosting are too much.

Grass-Fed Rule Angers Farmers reported…

Grass-Fed Rule Angers Farmers reported the New York Times last week. Includes addresses for submitting comments to the Agriculture Department regarding grass-fed legislation. If I'm going to spend the extra money for something that's labeled grass-fed, I want to be sure it's actually out in the pasture grazing for its meal, not standing in a feed lot eating "grass" harvested from unripe corn.