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Foie Gras Is the Devil's Work

Foie gras is the result of gavage, a technique of forcing a tube down the throat of a helpless goose, and pumping the bird so full of food that their liver expands to about ten times the size.
Photo by Sophie via Flickr

Foie gras, that edible geode of animal flavor, is delicious goose liver silly putty. It's like animal butter, but even richer. Gently pink like a flushed cheek and yellow-rimmed like a psychedelic lunch meat, it's blushingly luxurious and expensive, too. At Betony, a high-end restaurant in Manhattan's Midtown, Chef Bryce Shuman gives it a hot pork injection. Inside this disc of foie gras is a ham hock puck. Sweet holy Jesus.


Scooping a swab of the stuff on a piece of brioche and putting it into your mouth is like mainlining pleasure to your limbic system. Fat and flavor—it's all stored there in a suspended solution. After eating a smear, one thinks of filling a pool with foie gras. Its surface would be placid and vinyl-like. Mounting a ten-meter diving board and belly flopping into it, mouth open, to leave a perfect man-sized hole. That's some Looney Tunes-meets-David Hockney type shit.

By consuming foie gras, one joins a fraternity of gourmands, gluttons, and dissolute aristos, from Caligula to Sarkozy. Sure, for a brief while it was the Jews who primarily ate the stuff—not even the well off ones—but suppress that thought in your shtetl-mind. Foie gras is now the food of the powerful. Foie gras is the food of "I don't give a fuck."

But what if you do? What if, while that bite of foie gras slowly melts in your mouth like a fatty iceberg that's torpedo'ing your life expectancy, you wonder, How did liver become so decadent and, I believe the word is, unctuous? Is it that the geese from which they came, like Kobe beef, massaged with milk and fed only Kinder Surpresa, from which some lovely fam maiden had removed the toy and carefully stuck back together?

Photo by Ethique & Animal via Flickr

No, sillytonian. Foie gras is the result of gavage, a technique of forcing a tube down the throat of a goose, and pumping the birds so full of food that their livers expand to about ten times the size. There's a name for that. Torture is the technique. Hepatic steosis is the condition. You don't have to be a patchouli-smoking vegan PETA fanatic to see that foie gras is a cruel food. Apologists say the gaveuses—the women who stick the gavage down the throats of the bird—are like mothers to these geese, but that's some Medea School of Motherhood.


Eating foie gras is like availing oneself of a massage parlor, an experience of sublime pleasure but of questionable morality

Well, in that case, the consumption of foie gras is altogether more kinky. It's a subverted, pervert ping pong between pleasure and morality. Eating foie gras is like availing oneself of a massage parlor, an experience of sublime pleasure but of questionable morality. Little in my life can compare to the transcendent skyscraping thrill of lying flat on crinkly doctor's paper-covered massage table in a small ill-smelling red-lit room as spa music plays and some woman ruthlessly drives up her price for a tug job. No joy can overcome the frisson of a hard prick, a practiced hand, and baby oil.

But what could possibly account for this intense pleasure, incommensurate with the relatively brief but well-oiled handjob, especially since, even as one is climaxing, one is thinking, "$80, really?" And especially since, as soon as climax is achieved, that joy is poisoned by one's conscience and the hot love juice immediately curdles and irrevocably into dark crystals of shame, dribbles of bilious manganite, burning ones flesh…suppressed for all of three minutes, one's liberal guilt floods back in. What would my mother say?

No, the joy comes not from her touch—feathery and perfunctory—nor is it caused because one actually believes her moans—so over-the-top and absurd and also out of place—are anything more than a satire of a sexual pleasure. It is not because one believes the performance, but because one is flattered by the fact that she is performing at all. And that's the terrifyingly revealing, amoral pleasure of foie gras, too.

Ordering and eating foie gras is a gleeful embodiment of power. One doesn't deny it is a cruel delicacy. One doesn't believe the hogwash, like the geese like to be force fed. No, one revels in that—and in the knowledge that it doesn't matter, it has no effect. We are foie gras-eating drone pilots and those geese, tube shoved down their throat, are just blips on a remote screen.

For the shadow thought—too sadistic to murmur but too obvious to ignore—is that it doesn't matter what perverse abjection we visit on a goose or a woman. A goose is a goose, a woman is a woman, a gander is a gander, and above all of these things, man—by dint of patriarchy, violence, and evolution—stands atop of the heap, with a spoon of foie gras in one hand and his baby-oiled prick pulsing in expectation and entitlement.