Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Delicacy? One of the 1 Percenters' Favorite Foods Rightly Under Attack!

As noted in previous blogs, the elite of the 1 percent have food cravings and tastes that many of us have never heard of. They love their caviar and expensive magnums of champagne, and usually also with a large helping of foie gras. Indeed, a recent WSJ Weekend spread featured an article on how to get hold of the best. Cost? No problemo! Merely $500 a pound or so! While many of us can barely afford to buy a Whopper or Big Mac in these hard times, the 1 percent can spend as much as they want on the most abominable foods.

Why get incensed over foie gras? Why not just leave these rich bastards to their favorite delicacies? Well, I am not a follower of PETA (being a born n' bred carnivore from the days I used to help my Grandpa make his home made sausage in Milwaukee) but even I get creeped out by the process of how this food comes to the well-appointed tables of the wealthy.

Of course, the wealthy don't mind! They don't have to bear witness to the agony of thousands of poor geese or ducks as they're force fed - yes, force fed - enormous volumes of milk-shake consistency mash grain through funnels (see attached image). This force-feeding causes the livers of ducks and geese to bloat between six and ten times their normal size rendering the creatures in agony (never mind we are informed by the gourmet chefs of the 1% that "the livers of these birds are adapted to store large amounts of calorie -rich fat"). But half the poor bird's weight?

Is that agony imparted worth the "delicate moist taste" and "buttery consistency" of the flesh produced? To feed the insatiable mouths of the richest while 20 million American kids go to bed crying each night from their hunger? Can this be right? According to the richest, "Bah and humbug!" They insist foie gras is nothing less than the "finest foodstuff that exists" (The Economist, Dec. 3, p. 96). But look, if by some quirk a rich guy managed to get hold of a fatty human liver and discovered that by sauteeing it with red wine it rivaled foie gras, would we allow that? Would we permit tens of thousands of budding "Hannibal Lecters" among us to cook up fried human brains with "a nice Chianti and some Father beans"? I think not, no matter how praised by "gourmet" tongues!

But of course, a duck or goose is different., 'cause they're "expendable". A duck is just a duck and a goose just a goose, so no biggie! We can overfeed and eat 'em because.....they were created for humans to gorge on!

Probably one of the best arguments (I guess culinary, not moral) to argue against the one percent gorging week in and week out on foie gras is the fact that the product is very often variable in quality. Some goose livers when cooked retain all the excess fat and hence "the rich flavor" that the richest among us crave. But just as many livers end up losing too much of the fat stored when heated, so end up tasting terrible. Hence, these livers constitute "waste" and the duck or goose underwent its torment for nothing. This means, minus adequate quality assurance that one can consistently obtain the desired taste, it really ought not be done....this horrific overfeeding that is.

According to an article just published in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, by Caroline Molette - a biologist at the University of Toulouse in France- the variation in taste is based on whether the creature's liver is healthy or not. The researcher and her colleagues rounded up 150 male mule ducks and raised them for 13 weeks in standard poultry house conditions, then transferred them to individual enclosures.

Over a further twelve days the birds were fattened up using the process shown in the image, by force feeding them grain mash and flour. The ducks were then slaughtered and their livers removed - then immediately trimmed of all their blood vessels, and finally chilled for 6 hours.

Instead of cooking the whole birds, Molette removed a 200 g sample of each liver (average weight of livers is 550 g) and put the rest in cold storage. Each excised sample was then placed in a jar with a bit of salt and pepper and cooked it for an hour. As expected, some tasted horrific and others not.

To get the final hard answers to her questions, she then analyzed the uncooked liver sections using a combination of electrophoresis (which sorts proteins according to their volumes and electrical properties, conduction etc.) and mass spectrometry (which sorts fragments of the proteins by mass). Her findings? The fat-retaining livers were rich in a variety of proteins known to help the creature's body digest and store food. The fat -releasing livers by contrast had high concentrations of fatty-acid binding protein 4. (In human livers this would be a marker of dieases, usually from those who consume too many Big Macs - as Morgan Spurlock did for one month in his 'Superisize me' flick, but this time over most of a life. In other words, Molette found the fat retaining livers were healthy while the others were not.

Her bottom line conclusion, which will surely please the richest one percent who are gratified at the prospect of more foie gras?

A massively enlarged duck or goose liver need not be abuse because the liver can still be healthy. If it is healthy, then how can it be abuse?

So, I suppose the wealthiest will now settle down to weekly foie gras flings, having soothed their consciences. They just need to ensure they raise their ducks or geese in the most comfortable surroundings, so they can force feed the poor little animals and feast on their bloated fatty livers later.

Foie gras made from the richest humans, anyone?

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