From Publishers Weekly
Veteran Chicago Tribune
entertainment reporter Caro expands on his front-page story about a 2005 flap over foie gras with a wide-ranging investigation into the ethical debate surrounding the human consumption of fattened duck liver. Drawing on conflicts in Chicago, Philadelphia and California over whether force-feeding birds should be legislated as torture or standard agricultural practice, Caro presents various positions from duck farmers, chefs and animal rights activists. His chatty arguments between industry players deliver without becoming unnecessarily complicated or resorting to the oversimplification of surveys and superficial media reports. Caro offers descriptions of a vegan activist headquarters, a video depicting a rat burrowing into an injured duck, and traditional farm operations in France. While he pursues his source's agendas with due diligence, he appears reluctant to side completely with gourmands despite describing presumably happy ducks, mouthwatering foie gras meals and even eating a raw duck liver. While he tends to focus on the colorful, entertaining aspects of the food's history and science, Caro's selection of pointed quotes from duck liver lovers and foie gras foes presents an in-depth take on this ongoing food fight. (Mar.)
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In 2006, Chicago’s City Council enacted a ban on the sale of foie gras, one of the summits of gastronomic art. Concerted action by a number of animal-rights advocates armed with photos and videotapes had persuaded one alderman to propose the embargo, and the ordinance sailed through with little debate. Reacting to this governmental interference in their menus, Chicago’s vainest and most celebrated chefs squared off in opposing camps, hurling insults at one another and generally attracting both national and worldwide attention until the ban’s repeal in 2008. Chicago Tribune reporter Caro has documented the full story of this culture contretemps. Reminding that force-feeding poultry dates back to the dawn of recorded history, he investigates the reality of today’s relatively benign treatment of ducks and geese on both American and French farms. He details force-feeding processes that engorge fowls’ livers to succulence and appear so repugnant to urbanites who romanticize rural life. The voluble farmers, entrepreneurs, animal-rights activists, and chefs whom Caro vividly describes rival even the perennially entertaining denizens of Chicago’s City Hall, and it becomes hard to discern who is the silliest goose. --Mark Knoblauch