pry the foie from my cold, calloused hands
Author Michael Ruhlman is guest-blogging over at megnut, and he’s written a quite lovely rant that was at least partially inspired by Frank Bruni’s recent crisis of conscience. I find it very easy to dismiss Bruni – he’s a bit of a half-wit, isn’t he? – but that column of his had me near apoplexy. The stupidity, it is apparently spreading.
The best surprise of Ruhlman’s post is actually in the comments section, where Tony Bourdain shows up to support the rant and report on his activities in fighting against the folly of the foie ban. PETA and their ilk have won some important battles; all of this nonsense began here, in my beloved Northern California. They conquered Chicago in April, and now have set their sites on what I am hoping is their Waterloo: New York State.
I can hear the captains of America’s largest fine dining industry muttering through barred teeth: “Just. Fucking. Try it.”
I hope the bid fails, but I know the issue won’t stay dead. Why? Because it’s winnable, and the forces aligned against us know it. How do you fight for a delicacy that sounds, to the untrained or uneducated, like a barbaric culinary holdover? Another Gallic invention to be shunned, like the Guillotine?
Perhaps, as Bourdain pointed out in “A Cook’s Tour,” by realizing that those who would ban foie or veal will not content themselves, but will eventually lay waste to the very foundations of cookery. Vegans who could not cook a vegetable properly to save their own meager, anemic lives will be coming next for the oysters, the pouisson, even the bones we use for stock.
Am I being paranoid? Am I just a cook who’s got his nose out of joint because someone’s trying to empty the larder? I wish I was. Unfortunately, I’m familiar with the people who want foie off the menu. And I’m a bit too familiar with what they’re willing to do to achieve their goals.
Bourdain mentions the “Manrique incident” off-handedly within his comment on Ruhlman’s post. You can read about it here, and I can tell you a little bit more – I worked on the line at Aqua under Laurent Manrique. During that time, he was my chef; later, I would work with him and his team to open up C&L and Cafe de la Presse. He is a tough but fair man, respectful of his guests, his staff, and most importantly, his ingredients. He did not deserve what these anti-foie idealogues did to him. What the newspapers described as “harassment” does not begin to describe the predatory and outright dangerous behavior these “activists” engaged in. They videotaped his children at play. They defaced his home and threatened his family. And then they destroyed his shop.
Pardon me for thinking these are not people who will be appeased by a ban that begins in 2012 (in California) and a couple municipal bans in the West. They won’t – they’re already trumpeting their efforts in Massachusetts, New York and Oregon. These are people who believe that the public is too stupid to know what to put into their own mouths.
I am a cook, and I believe that we are losing to these idiots.