Column Date 2006-05-17

Kiss your foie gras goodbye

The “Food Police” are at it again.

They recently pressured the Chicago City Council into passing a law which banned the sale of foie gras, the fatty liver of geese and ducks.

Restaurants and retail stores can now be fined $500 if some snoopy citizen complains. (I think meddlesome people should always be forced to identify themselves, in this case by wearing a large badge that reads “Inspector of Fat Livers”.)

Who are these “Food Police” -- these people who think that everybody should eat only what they approve?

Well, in Chicago, they are animal rights advocates, who believe that geese and ducks are treated inhumanely to obtain foie gras. The birds are, in fact, force fed grain to make their livers larger.

Now they may be right -- I’m not particularly enamored of force-feeding birds -- but history teaches us that folks who know what’s best for you never know when to stop.

Some people think it’s a criminal act for anyone to eat a hamburger, not to mention lamb, veal, or pork. There are also people who think that no human should drink milk or eat eggs. And others who think that we shouldn’t ever cook our food: it should all be eaten raw.

They all mean well, I guess. But we’re headed for a real food fight here: I don’t think the country’s foie gras producers will take the Chicago ban sitting down.

They’re probably out there right now, trying to get even with Chicago (which, you remember, was once called “hog butcher for the world”). I wouldn’t be surprised to find them lobbying other cities to ban pork.

Of course, as soon as one city bans pork, the pig farmers in the Carolinas will find lots of reasons why both cows and chickens are badly mistreated, and should be outlawed in their states.

At which point the legislators in Kansas will undoubtedly leap to the defense of their local beef industry and ban not only pork but foie gras, chicken, duck and goose as well.

And it will spread.

Watsonville, California, might require that every restaurant become vegan, and invite visitors to feast on red leaf lettuce, romaine and Watsonville curly endive, all grown under humane conditions.

The Governor of Idaho will be under great pressure to rule that every meal served in that state must include a side order of healthy, home-grown, baked potatoes.

And who would be surprised if Florida banned all drinks other than citrus from being served in the state? Alcohol would be exempt, of course, since they’d be sure to point out that almost anything alcoholic can be improved by adding citrus.

In fact, the only places left in America that would have varied menus would be places like New York and San Francisco – which produce no food, and where the populations are so diverse that people eat anything that moves or grows.

But here’s what makes me nervous: what happens if, someday, scientists discover that fruits and vegetables actually scream when we pick them?

What’s left to eat?

©2006 Peter Tannen