When the ban on foie gras takes effect on July 1, Californians with a taste for foie will be reduced to copping the creamy tan stuff in little, perfect slugs squeezed into wax paper packets like opium. They'll slip from hand-to-hand on public transportation. Liver-laden trucks will trundle from neighboring states with the goods. Turf wars over its distribution may break out from Beverly Hills to Bel Air. As reported in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle, shaken by grim visions of this impending future, over 100 respected California chefs are petitioning the Legislature to reverse the ban, the nation's first state law prohibiting the sale of foie gras.
Known as the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards (CHEFS), the group of chefs wants to keep foie gras legal but also force farmers to raise their ducks and geese in pleasant, stress-free environments and employ humane bird-stuffing methods. Los Angeles-area chefs on board include Michael Beck of The Valley Hunt Club in Pasadena, Michael Cimarusti of Providence, Josiah Citrin of Melisse in Santa Monica, Rory Herrman of Bouchon in Beverly Hills, Ludo Lefebvre of LudoBites, Jon Shook of Animal and Son of a Gun, Sang Yoon of Lukshon and Father's Office, and Micah Wexler of Mezze.
Rob Black, executive director for San Francisco's Golden Gate Restaurant Association, the organizational engine behind CHEFS, frames the push as both a plea and a warning in the Chronicle piece:
We're trying to create a humane market, not a black market … By repealing the ban and enacting strict new standards, we will send the message to the world that California is the leader in the humane and ethical treatment of animals.
His feathers ruffled by the 11th hour attempt, former State Sen. John Burton, the guy who sponsored the 2004 legislation preventing the sale of any product resulting from force-feeding to unnaturally plump a bird's liver, pecked back:
They've had all this time to figure it out and come up with a more humane way … I'd like to sit all 100 of them down and have duck and goose fat — better yet, dry oatmeal — shoved down their throats over and over and over again.
If the state follows through on July 1, we imagine foie gras clinics will start to sprout up — unassuming buildings with the brown outline of a goose blinking above the doorway. Inside you'll “buy” a very expensive buttered crouton or small spoon, get your fix, and stagger back out into the daylight.