The state of California implemented a law banning all California restaurants from serving foie gras effective July 1, 2012, stirring up a hornet’s nest among California restaurateurs.
Before we go any further, just in case you have been pronouncing foie gras as fo e grass, let’s don’t upset the French any further than they are already upset over the California ban. In French this delicacy is pronounced fra grah. Expect the mouth to take on contorted shapes when pronouncing this word.
The California ban was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 specifying implementation in 2012 when Arnold would be safely out of office and out of reach of irate gourmands and the entirety of French citizenry.
In Gascony, the major foie gras producing region of France, a boycott of California wines has been instituted. Never mind France imports hardly any California wine and none could ever be found in Gascony to boycott.
At issue in California is how foie gras is produced. Foie gras means fat liver and how the liver comes to be fatted goes to the heart of the issue.
Geese gorge on grain in summer months to sustain themselves over winter and in doing so make their livers fat. Geese killed before gorging have puny livers. Ancient man discovered by force feeding captive flocks with copious amounts of grain by a process the French call “gavage,” that ancient man and now modern man except in California could enjoy fatty goose liver year round. Gavage involves inserting a hose or funnel down the goose’s neck forcing moistened grain down the throat of the goose to fatten the liver subsequently harvested for foie gras.
France accounts for 80 percent of worldwide production of foie gras, in comparison to America’s one percent. California has one foie gras farm, a small 25-year-old family-owned business. This law forces this family out of business. If similar laws should gain traction in other parts of the world, France could be faced with a loss of approximately 30,000 foie gras jobs.
California animal rights activists successfully lobbied their legislature to ban this ancient practice. This probably was a non-issue for most of the legislators, who like me, would never eat the stuff anyway. It takes a sophisticated palate to enjoy liver that melts like butter on your tongue.
California restaurateurs are petitioning the legislature to repeal this act. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is on record saying California’s legislature has more prescient matters to consider, such as budget deficits, pension plans and home foreclosures.
Those pro foie gras say prohibition has never worked in this country and the law should be repealed.
The legislation leaves many unanswered questions. Is it legal order foie gras from other states where it is not banned? Will residents be allowed to bring this stuff across state lines? Will foie gras speakeasies spring up? Will loop holes in the law be sealed?
For now, the Presidio Social Club, a restaurant located on federal land in San Francisco, has announced it will continue to serve foie gras because the restaurant’s location on federal land exempts it from the ban much, like how Indian reservations are exempt from state gambling laws.
Foie gras consumption is still legal in other states. For gentle readers who like liver and might be in need of a wine to serve with it, we must defer to the French. Most often they serve a seared slice from the lobe of a fatted goose liver with a glass of sauterne, a sweet golden wine from the Bordeaux region of Sauterne like the half bottle of Chateau Roâmieu-Lacoste 2009 for $21.50, found at Tyson Fine Wines and Things in Golden Springs.
Count me out on the fo-e-grass, but make my Sauterne a double.