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The Foie Gras Wars: How a 5,000-Year-Old Delicacy Inspired the World's Fiercest Food Fight Hardcover – March 10, 2009
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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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
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Top customer reviews
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Foie Gras becomes an easy target for criticism because so few even know what it is and don't have a daily reliance on it to get the family fed. If one really wants to see cruelty... look at industrial farming and processing of the animals we eat everyday. Most choose not to know, lest they feel the need to change their life and give up burgers and chicken breast. There truly is no comparison between dedicated, compassionate artisinal farmers of any food animals and the agri-business that makes sure the grocery stores are stocked as inexpensively as possible for the convenience of the masses.
This book is a great read for any foodie or Chef.
I live in a PA farm district. We eat FRESH eggs and chicken from Amish farmers who have great farms nearby. The eggs are the best and the yolks stand up in the fry pan. I always tell my Amish friends that they have the BEST!
These people treat their hens and animals humanely. They also understand the natural health of the food chain.
We pay a little more but it is worth it for our Amish neighbors since they are respectable people.
We also buy fresh produce and "Fresh is best"! Our local motto.
I also do not care about FOODY type snobs from large cities and the way they cook and try to always impress.
Perhaps this book is not for everyone. I already knew about the animal cruelty
of the world and do not need a: lengthy, gross book to entertain or educate myself.
This book is about a fight.
The story starts small, Charlie Trotter as protagonist and his lost mignon, Tramonto as first of many antagonists. I just read his book "Osteria". My last review on Mr. Trotter was for his superb, if difficult book "Raw". These guys are antithetical, captured expertly by Mr. Caro. If I could offer the difference between these two chefs, it would be Trotter's cooking as dominance, while Tramonto is cooking of surrender to spiritual essence.
Mr. Caro does not much venture into philosophy or theology. Those are red herrings because his book is about a fight in the grand American tradition so reported by Mencken under headings of "Buncombe", aka "bunk".
I like how Mr. Caro does not much editorialize. He leaves that guff to those empty suits who use the editorial page as their two-faced bully pulpit. He observes and reports. He quotes and questions; he lets the reader figure out the rest.
With a story like this, I do not want my reporter worrying about deep thinking. Just give me, please, skilled and honest reportage. If You want more on ethics and science, I recommend Peter Singer and Michael Pollan. Mr. Caro does give us just enough of his personal thoughts, but never in a shoe-banging fashion.
It is easy to see how the James Beard Foundation gave this book their award. I do not want to spoil the rest of this book. Mr. Caro is thorough. He takes us from New York's Hudson Valley to Israel and to the Mecca of foie, Perigourd.
This book reaches far afield of foie, cover photo to the contrary. He looks at chickens, cows and turkeys. I am always surprised how many turkeys dinde) we eat in France.
This book reaches all those who follow media and the great circus that follows in Chicago. Before any spoilers, all you need to know is that the Chicago political and media is reported at their best in the rest of the book. Too good to miss.
By the way, D'Artagnan is my favorite purveyor of all things duck and goose. They are in New Jersey and easily found. They have my highest recommendation after twenty-five years of personal experience.