Edible Hudson Valley, Winter 2009 issue: pros and cons

Though I also adore The Valley Table, the other lovely upstate foodie rag, I have to say that I’m still a devoted Edible reader. The newest Edible Hudson Valley has certainly done me a solid too—my chocos are mentioned on page 22, and a (really great!) recipe of mine, for a Raspberry Truffle Tart with Shortbread Crust….

[Jacob just saw what I am doing and yelled out “Don’t alienate!!! Deep breaths!!!”]

is on page 13. When the magazine is off the shelves I’ll post the recipe, but for now here are photos of it. It’s dead simple and amazingly wonderful (if you were at the Hudson Valley Seed Library art opening in November, you might have had a slice!). And they have an interview with Prince Safran Foer, and the magazine is a lot meatier (ha!) than any other Edible publication—there are actual articles, not just quickie paragraphs framed by too-large photos like many other Edibles I’ve read. And my pal Jay Blotcher has a nice profile of a food stylist, and there’s a beautiful article on my besties Ken & Doug over at the Hudson Valley Seed Library and a fascinating article on root cellars, and and and….so, basically, I should just keep my mouth shut about their hilariously idiotic cover story on foie gras.

And yet! I’m sure they expected some blowback, and I am here to blow, being, as I am….uh, nevermind.

On one hand (the tiniest hand imaginable, a fetus hand perhaps, still dumb to the realities of our ultra fucked-up universe): I give the writer, one Lisa M. Dellwo (hello, Google Alert!) props for coming clean from the beginning. She tells us right from the start that “I love to eat foie gras.”

And we’re off. This is no “Consider the Lobster.” David Foster Wallace is dead, so is Gourmet. I actually believe, well, I want to believe, that had she gone all Foster Wallace on us, Edible Hudson Valley probably would have printed her piece. But Ms. Dellwo, she’s already got blood in her mouth. And here we are.

She pays an arranged visit (no undercover investigation for this fattened-liver lover) to Hudson Valley Foie Gras, whose operations manager has a “soft Arkansas accent” and

was willing to show me every stage of production, including gavage [=force feeding ducks] and slaughter [=unethical murder]. We had timed my visit to coincide with the afternoon feeding [sic] of ducks but—at my choice—not the morning slaughter [If I wasn’t such a feminist I’d call her, at this point, a fucking pussy.]. As [operations manager] Henley told me later, “Force feeding is the point of coming here.”

So, you see where we’re at.

We are squarely in the middle of the nouveau Slow Food-style of food writing, which prides itself on not shielding eaters from how their delicacies are produced. It disgusts me, because it speaks to the very worst, most sickening sort of person: those who see exactly how their food is made, and eat it anyway.

So she witnesses the force feeding, and she explains to us that (surprise!) ducks’ are built differently from us, so “I shouldn’t imagine that they can’t breathe, that their throats are being torn up and that they’re being fed more than they can handle…” Uh. I’ll just let that one sneak by, it’s too idiotic to address.

The force feeding commences, and it’s not too terrible-seeming. To her. Because she believes that it’s OK for humans to do whatever the fuck we want to animals, as long as we’re not too mean. Apparently. The fact that these ducks live in confinement and are completely at the whim of whatever humans want to do to them doesn’t bother her in the least. She just wants to make sure they aren’t hurt when food is being shoved down their throats. And from all that I’ve read, Hudson Valley Foie Gras doesn’t seem to be the very worst foie gras producer in the country. They’ve come under so much scrutiny, and they do appear to care somewhat for the animals whose lives they’ve stolen.

But WHO CARES?

Well, this lady does. She “drove away from the farm feeling pretty comfortable with what I’d seen.”

And guess who she calls up the next day? Our pal, Temple Grandin!

Of course.

And, in typical “I can’t ever love or even like you, but I can’t quite write you off” fashion, Grandin tells her she won’t eat foie gras, ’cause it seems cruel to her.

AHHHHHHHH……………………………………………………………………………….!!!!!!!!!!

What amazes me is this: that people draw these ridiculous lines in the sand. I’ll eat hamburgers, they tell themselves, but not foie gras.

Is it so terribly hard to have compassion for all animals? To understand that if you have to write an article and visit a farm and talk to experts and do all this heavy thinking about whether or not a food is cruel, perhaps the smart choice is to avoid that food in the first place? That maybe your first instinct—I’d prefer not to eat the artificially fattened liver of a duck that lived in darkness and confinement and died for my plate—is correct?

No, the nouveau Slow Foodies can never stop there. They keep going, past logic, and fetishize death for their pleasure. Because here’s the thing: it’s all about pleasure. In the end, pleasure is all that matters. I’m also a pleasure addict, of course. I just can’t believe that in order to be happy and well fed animals have to die.

The most I’m-laughing-so-I-don’t-start-screaming paragraph in the piece:

“If you’re going to do this [an animal welfare specialist tells her], they’ve tried hard to put in place a system that’s as noninvasive as possible.”

If you’re going to do this. It comes down to that. [blah blah, one of her friends tells her that foie gras is unnecessary] Of course it is. It’s unnecessary in the way that fine Bordeaux is [OH FUCK YOU, not AT ALL], or even bacon and eggs for breakfast. We don’t need it to survive. But if you believe that we join together at the table for pleasure as well as sustenance, then who defines what is unnecessary? It’s truly an individual choice.

OK, Ms. Dellwo, I’ve made a choice: I’d like to feed your liver to a duck. OK? Cool? Cool. I had a feeling you’d be fine with that, you with your oh-so logical mind and all.

The photos in the piece are arty shots of (and again with the feet in my mouth: I know the photographer a bit. I like her.): a duck being force-fed, the worker straddling it between his legs. Ducks in a dark barn, not caged but certainly not free, massed tightly together. Carcasses strung up in neat rows. One lone duck peeking out from some sort of confinement, staring directly into the camera lens.

These shots are not meant to provoke outrage. They are meant to teach us: this what happens, and this is OK. Understand it, so you are informed. There is no need to try to change it. This is how we live, and this is just fine.

This is the current legacy of the Slow Food movement, and this is why I can never embrace it. There was a time when all you had to do was show someone a slaughterhouse, and they were instant vegetarians. These days farmers merely need to treat their animals with a modicum of dignity and the brainless Slow Foodies literally eat it up. They’ve convinced themselves that as long as animal deaths are condoned by slick food magazines, meat doesn’t need to be justified or rationalized. It’s the Brave New World of meat-eating, and I’ll fight against it until the day I die.

Yesterday, I had lunch with someone who told Jacob and I, so casually, so calmly: “Yeah, I’m vegan. But, you know, I eat fish.”

I am vegan.

Jacob is vegan.

My friends are vegan.

My mother is vegan.

We are vegan because WE DO NOT BELIEVE IN USELESS KILLING.

Not because we want to be “healthier.”

Not because we want to see cute animals treated with more kindness and smiles before they die.

Not because we want to be trendy, or special, or self-important.

Because we do not believe in useless killing. Of ducks. Of cows. Of chickens. Of fish. Of children. Of poor people. Of old people.

Veganism is an anti-death practice.

That’s all there is to it.

5 Responses to “Edible Hudson Valley, Winter 2009 issue: pros and cons”

  1. Randal Putnam

    It occurs to me an enthusiastic reader of Edible might put together a meal with elements recommended in the issue including duck liver and your chocolates. Only the best local food, right? The possibility makes me sick. Then I realize I asked you to send for the holidays chocolates to four of my friends, no one of which is vegan.

    I am deeply conflicted. I want to lend maximum support to your business and promote veganism, but at the same time maybe a person should have to earn the right to eat the beautiful food you work so hard to produce.

    In the end, I am always stunned at how easily people waltz their way around the co-op aisles making at one moment friendly choices and the next, well, it seems their hearts and minds have been anesthetized by bad habits. I’d like to think your chocolates are magic and a single bite would instantly ensure a lifetime of friendly choices. I will check in with the recipients of your gifted chocolates. I remain optimistic.

    Reply
    • lagusta

      Yeah. I had no idea their cover story would be foie gras when I lent my recipe to the issue (and agreed to take out a one-time ad). Sigh. They have no letters to the editor section, either! I’ve actually reconciled myself to the idea of people eating my food with non-vegan stuff, for the most part. My clients sometimes tell me that they serve my food along with animals to their families, can you believe it? It used to sadden me. Now I’m at a place where I’m just happy they are eating some vegan food. My chocolates with foie gras, however…. The idea actually, literally just brought a real tear to my eye. Oh man. I’ve got to go to the beach with my heavy heart right now, try to lose it in the waves.

      Reply
  2. Jenn Sorrell

    I love this post so much. The whole thing. All of it. Especially this bit:

    “To understand that if you have to write an article and visit a farm and talk to experts and do all this heavy thinking about whether or not a food is cruel, perhaps the smart choice is to avoid that food in the first place?”

    I work for an environmental charity and am surrounded by socially conscious, slow foodie/environmentalists who are THE HARDEST people to talk to about the issues because…they know them. And continue on their meat eating ways.

    Reply

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