California’s July 1 ban on the sale and production of foie gras is having the unintended consequence of creating an underground culture of “duckeasies.”
As Care2 blogger Alicia Graef has written, Ray Tang, the owner of the Presidio Social Club, is arguing that he has the legal right to serve the fatted duck liver because his restaurant is located on a national park, on federal land. Evan Lee, a professor at UC Hasting’s College of Law, has said that the matter occupies a “gray area” that would most likely be decided in federal courts.
Other chefs are seeking to work their way around the law by hosting secret events, serving foie gras as a free side dish or selling it to “those in the know” while not listing it on the menu, says Bloomberg. Now that foie gras is forbidden fruit, some are taking pleasure in not only serving it up “under wraps” but seeking out how to eat something illegal.
Through an online notice at a “Duckeasy,” a group gathered for a “private event” at a San Francisco restaurant to eat Wonder bread, grape jelly and foie gras mousse. Said Daniel Rieken of San Francisco, “I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a certain exclusivity that is cool and a defiance against a law that we think is rooted in double standards.”
San Clemente’s Cafe Mimosa serves foie gras to those who request “fancy bread.” At Hot’s Kitchen in Hermosa Beach, foie gras is offered as a “complimentary” side with “The Burger,” which, at $13, costs twice as much as the other burgers. Hot’s Kitchen’s chef, Sean Chaney, says that there is something “fundamentally wrong” to be living in a “state where [he] can buy marijuana down the street, but [he can’t buy foie gras.” Chaney also noted that law enforcement has not tried to stop him and other restauranteurs in Los Angeles note the same.
In addition, private chefs see the ban as a “boon.” One Los Angeles business, Haute Chefs, charges $125 to $350 to prepare French cuisine in people’s home. Owner Jeff Nimer says that demand is up: “It’s just like Prohibition. The more you say it’s not allowed, the more people are going to want it.”
True. But one has to wonder, given all the things you can eat, are all these efforts to sneak around and have your foie gras too really worth it?
Dana Portnoy, a Bay Area campaign organizer for the Animal Protection and Rescue League, says that the ban is working. Restaurants are complying and it’s inevitable that some people will try to get around a law.
The “Duckeasies” and the other clandestine venues by which chefs are serving up foie gras suggest that the law’s penalties (a fine of $1,000 for each infraction and more fines of the same amount for each day such continue) may not strong be enough. If authorities do not make more efforts to enforce the foie gras ban, has the law — pardon the expression — lots some of its bite?
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Photo by Daquella manera