Do you remember « Never Say Never Again »1 ? I do. Those were the times, in the early eighties when James Bond, alias Sean Connery, knew how to seduce a girl properly ; as some divine creature is trying persuade him to eat pills to fight the antiradicals and salad – how infuriating for her Majesty’s subject, James brings out his heavy artillery : no, not his penis... But quail eggs... (ok, that was below the waist !), Beluga caviar, vodka and of course... the indisputable foie gras. When I delivered my twins in 1999, my ex-husband who is a great fan of James Bond's came to this hospital with foie gras... Sure, I would have prefered a ring...
Live and let die
Those were the golden times of the golden goose when the French gastronomy was at its peak, envied all over the world. Sean Connery's successor for the title role of James Bond, Roger Moore - Live and let die - has now been campaining against the force feeding of geese in France for some 14 years. Giving his unforgettable velvet voice to Peta, (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) for an advertising spot, which shows what the pleasure of taste buds involves for ducks and geese. Iltreatment, cruelty...
Licence to kill ...
I hardly ate foie gras when I saw the little film and it did not feel as enjoyable... Suddenly I connected my pleasure with the suffering, quite an experience. The British tend to dissociate the animal from the flesh whereas to the French it makes no difference. Let's go back to the fatal battle of Hastings in 1066, where all started. When William the Conqueror invaded England, imposing French laws, the French vocabulary colonized the English language : the French names were given to food and dishes, while the English words were kept for the animals. You look at a sheep but you eat mutton, you see a cow but you eat beef, you see a pig but you eat pork. In French, mouton, beuf, porc, mean the animal and the meat at the same time. Vocabulary tells you something about consciousness.
In 2012, Roger Moore 's boycott against Selfridges who sold foie gras from Gers in South France proved very efficient and led to the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and then even Prince Charles banning foie gras from their menu.
Last year, Billie Oddie, a 72 year old TV presenter took over the mission anti foie gras, « stomach churning cruelty » for the animal's rights group Viva ! and denounced Ernest Soulard, a well known foie Gras supplyer from Gers. The result was immediate, the 3 Michelin starred chef, Gordon Ramsay, suspended his restaurant from buying foie gras from this specific supplyer until the investigation was over. French Chef Joël Robuchon, in Convent Garden, found himself in a tricky situation. But none of the bosses removed foie gras from their menu.
The World is not Enough
The French of course think this attempt to kill the golden goose would be criminal for the local economy. In France in 2013, some 25000 tons of raw foie gras are produced each year out of a total of 26400 in Europe2. The French foie gras market involves 1,5 billion euros and 35000 jobs.
Even though foie gras abolitionists are getting more and more powerful and would like to ban foie gras as it is the case in California, since foie gras became a world heritage in 2006, Brussels decided to give time to the French to find an alternative to force-feeding.
From Paris, with Love...
This alternative could be « faux gras » ( « fake fat » in French), a paté made out of the liver of free range ducks and geese, which the Americans, the English and the Belgians have been experimenting3 and which is now sold in England at Waitrose department stores. As a French person, « faux gras » seems as attracting as the ersatz chocolate in Eastern Europe during the cold war. But I must admit, I have not tasted it yet.
For the moment, it appears as banning foie gras is another freedom restricting measure, another attempt to smoothing over the bumps and originality of our traditions, to limit our freedom. But may be, the French people who learned to wear a belt while driving (I remember how I loathed it first), and not to smoke in public places (such a relief for me), will wonder in a few years time how we could eat foie gras... The questioning of the animals welfare and position in our society is becoming more and more acute and we need to invent the life and uses that go with it.