I was extremely dismayed by last Sunday’s story in the Neighbors section, covering the splendid haute cuisine offerings of The Rookery Café.
Napa Valley foie gras? Really?
There are two problems here. First, the item itself. The production of foie gras involves the force-feeding of caged, immobilized birds with 15-inch steel tubes jammed down their throats and pumping in a mixture of corn boiled with fat into their stomachs. This deposits large amounts of fat on their livers — basically, inducing liver disease — thereby producing the buttery, rich, que magnifique consistency so sought after. It is considered such an inhumane and cruel process that more than a dozen countries have outlawed it, including many members of the European Union. In fact, the production of foie gras has been banned in California since 2012, as has been the sale of products that are a result of this process. In 2004, California gave foie gras producers eight years to find an economically viable yet humane alternate method of feeding, and were unable to do so, despite the millions of dollars at stake. The article’s clearly stated words seemed therefore to indicate that The Rookery obtained their foie gras illegally. Let’s just assume that the online “clarification” by the reporter that followed the piece is accurate, and the foie gras in question came not illegally from a specifically named Napa Valley restaurant, but from a farm in upstate New York. The farm in question has itself been touted as humane in its practices, but it still jams the same 15-inch steel tubes down unwilling birds’ throats.
At the very least, The Rookery is abetting animal cruelty of a sort that has been outlawed even in Argentina and the Czech Republic — all in the name of a yummy delicacy, presented in unapologetic, tone-deaf fashion. Many people enjoy eating meat but have respect for the animals providing it; a dinner named “The Rise and Fall of Piggy Stardust” not only shows no empathy whatsoever for the living, feeling creature that made this feast possible; it trivializes the entire transaction into a bad joke. It also makes clear that The Rookery’s serving of foie gras is a symptom of a larger and pervasive disease. To those who would scoff at such an “oversensitive” evaluation, I present the question: if shrieking, live kitten flambe at tableside resulted in a gastronomic piece de resistance nonpareil, where would The Rookery draw the line?
I will not be a patron of The Rookery until foie gras is off the menu for good. I will also vigorously encourage others to do the same.