Humble Pie With No Foie Gras On The Side

What can I say, I grew up in New York City where snide was a valued art form. Yesterday I posted about NYC’s foie gras ban.

BUT: after posting the piece about foie gras I spent some time looking at images of modern-day foie gras “farms.” After seeing those I applaud any ban that seeks to end those practices. A bit to be funny is one thing but having seen the reality of how the geese are treated, I will not eat foie gras again unless I know the animal was raised with care and respect.

Today I eat a large slice of humble pie.

What’s Good for the Goose…???

Three weeks ago the New York City Council took a bold and courageous stand on behalf of animal rights by banning the sale of foie gras. Foie gras is the much-prized goose liver paté with a creamy texture and flavor served in small portions on special occasions in France. After studying French for three months in 2004 I tested my language proficiency when purchasing it in a small specialty shop in the Dordogne. Foie gras is typically spread on a cracker or piece of bread as an appetizer before a meal. It also adds flavor to some wonderful sauces. A close friend of ours spent her childhood on a foie gras farm in Southwest France and she tells lovely stories about early life on the farm. The NYC Council’s primary reason given for banning the product cites the practice of force-feeding the geese to enlarge their livers. The ban was opposed by some New York state farmers who no longer use the force-feeding method known as gavage.

To be fair, there are many practices in modern animal farming that are deplorable and industrial foie gras operations are frightening and a far cry from the image of a flock of free-roaming geese living in the bucolic French countryside. As someone who has raised and slaughtered animals for our own table, I know first-hand the importance of honoring, respecting and caring for any animal we consume. It isn’t the intention of the ban that I find laughable so much as the shallowness of targeting a product with such little significance. Even if you embrace the symbolism of a foie gras ban, it addresses little of the greater issues. Banning foie gras was easily done with little risk of political fallout or resistance.

For “giggles and grins,” as a friend says, I crunched a few numbers to calculate how much foie gras is affected by the NYC ban. The estimates utilize figures for consumption of foie gras in France only because foie gras is so uncommon in the United States that I could not find a meaningful figure. Per capita consumption of foie gras in France is about 12 ounces/year, equal to about one gram/person/day.

New York City has roughly eight million people. Let’s assume that most foie gras is served in restaurants to curious or appreciative diners in French restaurants. Even in New York, there aren’t that many French restaurants so it would be shocking if a thousand people eat it on any given day in the Big Apple. At one thousand people eating one gram/day, foie gras consumption in NYC amounts to about 2.2 lbs every day. Allowing that my estimates could be off, let’s step it up one order of magnitude to ten thousand New Yorkers eating one gram/day. In that case, New Yorkers consume 22 pounds of foie gras each day. Now, let’s step it up another order of magnitude (remember “giggles and grins”) so even if one-hundred thousand New Yorkers eat some foie gras, say on a slice of pizza (haha!) that would amount to 222 pounds each day.

Here’s the rub, based on per capita statistics of American consumption of beef, pork (think bacon) chicken and other meat animals, New Yorkers eat millions of pounds of meat animals every day. An overwhelming percentage of these animals are raised and slaughtered in industrial meat farming operations. New York’s City Council did nothing to address that nor do I expect council members to take up a bacon, chicken nuggets or hamburger ban anytime soon.

I have little patience for anything that soothes our conscience while allowing greater affronts to be ignored. In the spirit of what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, I say to the NYC Council, “Give me a break and get back to dealing with something real!” And one more thing, “Bon Appétit!”

X Marks The Spot

The events of history may not change but who we are relative to them does.

I am standing in Dealey Plaza twenty feet away from where two modest X’s (shots 1 and 2) are painted on the road where John F. Kennedy was shot dead.

I turn around and look up to the corner window of the former Texas School Book Depository, now the Dallas County Administration Building where my daughter, Ruby works on the 4th floor, scanning to the sixth floor aerie where Oswald shot the president.

Anyone my age has seen numerous accounts of the killing from every possible perspective.  Standing on the street, the one clear thing is regardless of what theory holds about the killing; it was an easy shot.

Who, what, why, how and whether history changed because of the shooting I have no idea.

I was eight when the killing happened; too young then to grasp its implications.  Now, sixty-four,  I feel much the same.  A few quotes come to mind. Bob Dylan twice, “I was so much older then I’m younger than that now.” “There ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe, it don’t matter anyhow.” And from Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot, “Time will tell, fades away.”

Standing here after visiting the museum, what is most clear is that Time-Will-Not-Tell.  All one knows is that a man died here and the violence of that death lingers.

On the street, and in the Sixth Floor Museum, are hundreds of people visiting the site, many, if not most in Dallas for a football game to be held later today. Most are half my age and born well after the killing.

I ask two of the young people why they’re here and they say because like 9/11 it is part of history and they’re curious. The mood of the people inside the museum is somber as with our guided headsets we walk through the events leading up to, during and after the killing.

I’m no different than anyone here. I’m bearing witness to an event that I will never fully understand and I’m spent when I leave.

For some reason I struggle to capture the emotions in a haiku.

A man was killed here
Fifty six long years ago
I know nothing more