Montreal Friday

Le photos!

Duck in a Can

Friday was the day we went to Au Pied de Cochon, which you can see here in this YouTube video of
chef Martin Picard attempting to kill Anthony Bourdain of No Reservations with meat.

So, we had, among other things, controversial French delicacy foie gras. Fatty liver of duck or goose. This delicacy is controversial because it involves force-feeding the animals, which exploits a natural tendency these birds have to fatten up before migration. It softens and fat-ifies the liver, which, I can now attest, makes it taste uniquely delicious.

(As part of poutine, the dish of Quebec, and also as a Cromesquis de foie gras, which is kind of like a foie gras popper, served as a breaded, deep-fried, two-centimeter cube. The meat inside is liquefied. It is the texture of a very fine cream cheese popper and tastes sort of simultaneously like mushrooms, aged cheese, and meat stock. My conclusion is that it was more or less pure, concentrated umami.)

So, I am a monster, or the symbol of a monster.

Or not.

I am not actually convinced that the production of foie gras is truly more horrifying than the production of any other meat product. It’s a tradition that goes back well before the days of factory farming, for one thing. And because it’s a specialty item, my impression is that it’s far more likely to come from the kind of vaguely old-fashioned farm where the animals live a short, but reasonably happy life.

But even if not… the mere fact that I eat meat, without always knowing where it comes from, means that some of what I eat comes from enormous, environment-destroying, animal-torturing factory farms. I’m not happy about that, exactly. When I buy meat myself I try to buy organic, ethical, etc. I want that to be the default. I’m just too lazy and weak-willed and protein-craving to vet every single piece of meat that crosses my path before eating it.

I think foie gras bans are a bit like late-term abortion bans. PeTA doesn’t just want you to stop eating foie gras, you know. They don’t just want you to stop eating animals raised in factory farm conditions. They want you to stop eating steak, chicken, pig, sheep, fish, shrimp, crawfish, lobster, crab, clams, oysters, mussels, squid, rabbit, duck, goose, elk, deer, buffalo and goat as well as milk, eggs, honey and your leather shoes altogether. They don’t want you to keep a pet. They think your beloved dog or cat is a “slave” and would be better off dead than enslaved by you. Seriously. I’m not kidding.

But they also know they are going to have a hard time prying that hamburger out of your hands, or your Fluffy from her satin pillow. Those things are too solid. So what they do is, they start chipping away at what they see is a weak spot. In this case, foie gras is a weak spot because most people don’t eat it, and because it sounds disgusting.

Of course, if you think this is all just pathetic justification for my own participation in animal slaughter, feel free to flame away.


  1. Peta sound a lot to me like those religious nutcase groups that go on about Intelligent Design or Abortion, playing child’s mind games to distract people from their real agenda and real problems (like why they don’t have lives, etc)

    1. Author

      I believe that PeTA and Operation Rescue have a lot more in common than is usually recognized.

      Particularly, the way both groups seem to value empathy toward an abstract unrealized notion of purity over empathy toward actual living creatures right in front of them.

  2. Ooh, you guys sat at the same table that Gardner Dozois, Connie Willis, and George Rail Road Martin sat at on Thursday, when we were there.

    I didn’t eat any foie gras, not because I object to the treatment of the animals, but because I object to the taste of liver. However, the foie gras poppers were a big hit at our table too. As was the foie gras poutine, come to think of it. (I had the regular poutine, which was much, much better than the poutine at Dunn’s.)

    1. Author

      Wow, your table sounds fun!

      The fries there were fried in duck fat, which I am now convinced is the only way anybody should ever make fries ever. Except I would probably eat more fries if they were always fried in duck fat, so, really, it’s probably all for the best that I have to travel to New Orleans or Montreal to get ’em.

      (And now somebody is going to tell me about a place in Seattle where you can get duck fat fries and I am going to have to stick my fingers in my ears and go “la la la I can’t *hear* you!”)

      1. Oops, just to be clear: we were not sitting at the table with the big shots. We were sort of kittycorner to them (over by the wine collection), and therefore I recognized the corner in your photo.

        Anyway, yeah, duckfat fries could be a big hit in Seattle, what with the antipathy to the (Oregon) Ducks. Somebody could get rich!

  3. Yeah, I find that weird about PETA–that the ethical treatment of animals involves basically releasing them into the wild and leaving them alone. They are actually pretty happy in captivity, as I’ve seen, as long as they get a lot of exercise and regular meals.

    And I would totally eat foie gras and feel bad about it, but eat it anyway. You did the right thing… at least, the thing I would do.

    1. Author

      I think PETA sees humans has being inherently unnatural, somehow, so that our relationship with other species is mystically “tainted” compared to those species’ relationships with each other, even if our relationship to them is more pleasant.

      So, if a bunch of kittens are sleeping under your house, letting them get eaten by a coyote is somehow “better” than adopting them out to loving homes.

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