Adieu ‘foie gras’!

Yes, as of July 1, 2012, a ban on the production and sale of “foie gras” will take effect. The law, written by Democrat John Burton, was passed in 2004, supported by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, under the (I believe) false pretense of cruelty to animals. This was just another pathetic attempt by our government to take more control of our daily lives.

I wish to explain here why I am so upset and even angry about the ban. As some of you may know, I was born in rural southwest France, in a remote and not easily accessible corner of the Lot department, on a small farm that provided the family with our daily nourishment. It also provided my family with money via the sale of our farm products at the market place every other Saturday in Figeac, a small town 10 kilometers away.

Besides a vegetable garden by the river, alfalfa and corn fields, we raised cows and goats for milking and cheese-making (we sold 90 percent of these), then pigs, pigeons, chickens, a couple of geese and ducks, both for consuming and selling.

So, back to our ducks, which were our biggest source of income: we fed 60 ducks every year, 20 roaming freely, fed on corn and other grain, and 40 that were kept for force-feeding (gavage). All these birds eventually ended up on a butcher block at the hand of my dad, but which do you think had the better lives?

From mid-October to mid-February, typically at 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. every day, my grandmother and my dad would go force-feed our 40 ducks (hard work!) to fatten both the bird and its liver, a practice that goes back to antiquity (the Egyptians depicted the practice on several bas-relief pieces, as did the Romans).

The minute the door of the pen opened there would be a battle to be the first duck in line!

The excitement was amazing, the birds couldn’t wait to get fed!

The process for each animal is grabbing the duck, inserting a funnel in its throat (the bird can ingest its food — such as an entire fish — via its special esophagus) and in a two-to- three-minute procedure push down corn (grass sometimes) in an amount that increases every month until the fattening process is completed.

The ducks are kept in the dark and are basically in a state of inebriation through the whole process, just happy, happy fellows until the day of their demise...

Much better than those other 20 ducks that were out all day in the cold or rain, some of them butchered twice a month for our Sunday’s roast duckling...

All the fattened birds would be butchered at once, the livers sold at market for big money and the rest of the duck would be “confit,”  kept in the cellar and eaten once a week on Thursdays — voila!

The whole process is a far cry from the depictions of the sick and tortured animals presented to the legislators who, by the way, never bothered to visit any of the farms where these birds are force-fed.

Now, as of July 1, the farms will close, more people will go on the unemployment line and a few other small businesses will shutter.

A sad ending, but, for now, we must celebrate that amazing product and both Mille Fleurs and Mister A’s will offer special “foie gras” menus featuring the different preparations of this incredible delicacy...

Come join us — savor, enjoy, and then mourn with us the passing of “foie gras” in California!

Bertrand Hug,

Owner, Mille Fleurs and Mister A’s

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