When they brought the salad I ordered in my business lunch the other day, I looked down at one of those exotic greens they bring in place of lettuce and I thought: phooey grass. Which prompted, inevitably, a series of serious reflections about foie gras — and the demise of freedom in our society.
Foie Gras, for the uninitiated, is Mardi’s ex-wife, the one who cleaned him out in the divorce settlement. Although that silly goose ate too much for her own good, Mardi still named a food product after her: namely, the liver of a fattened goose. In recent years, animal rightists and leftists have decried the practice of force-feeding the geese. They have brought massive pressure to bear on the haute and the haughty by discussing the matter at high-society cocktail parties. It finally all became too much for gourmet restaurateur Wolfgang Puck, who announced last week that his establishments will no longer serve the stuff.
I have long admired Wolfgang, especially his most puckish dish, the tongue-in-cheek. To see him reduced to eschew rather than chew, told without due process he can no longer do a process, is tragic. This is the most shocking expulsion from the liver pool since the Beatles. Starving geese everywhere are gazing forlornly at the Viennese Table of late-life delicacies now expunged from their benefit plan. No one has taken a proper gander at what tastes good for the goose.
Chucking the chuckles aside, let us take a hard look at this feted fetish for keeping the lower orders off the high-end orders at our eateries. Undoubtedly, there is a virtue in sparing all living creatures unnecessary pain. The Bible includes a number of laws designed to minimize animal discomfiture, even ordaining a day off from work: “Keep the Sabbath… do no work… your servant, your maid, your ox and your donkey…” (Deuteronomy 5:12,14) Still, the animal’s role is to serve man as a worker in life and food after death. This is its nobility, its calling, its fulfillment. It provides a surge to the engine of man’s progress.
Despite the dispensation to feed an animal in ways which enhance its quality as food (or the quality of its leather, wool or feathers), the spirit of gentleness should be preserved. The Talmud records a tradition explaining why the great Rabbi Judah the Prince, confidant of Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus and compiler of the Mishna, suffered painful kidney stones. They were a punishment for the following incident. A lamb broke away from a line of sheep being led to the slaughter and snuggled up against the rabbi’s chest. “Go back,” he said gently. “This is what you were created for.” Not gentle enough. If the lamb took the trouble to appeal to him, he should have spared it the knife.
And yet… and yet… the grassy-green foes of foie gras are not animated by this vision. With the notable exception of our own Ben Stein, these beast-boosters are never pro-life. How do we explain a movement of people who will allow you to take a nearly-born baby and vacuum its brain out but won’t let you give a goose a second helping of sherbet?
That great observer of humanity, O. Henry, anticipated this sort of personality. He wrote an amazing story, “The Theory and the Hound,” about a U.S. Marshal sent to Honduras to extradite a Mr. Williams wanted for murdering his wife stateside. Arriving there, the marshal finds two men calling themselves Mr. Williams, each shielding the other from being definitively identified and arrested. No amount of investigating succeeds in cornering the rat. Finally, in desperation, the marshal viciously kicks the dog in full view of both gentlemen. One of the men leaps to his feet to protest and the marshal snaps the handcuffs on him, saying: “Hound-lover and woman-killer, get ready to meet your God.”
Or, as the prophet Hosea (13:2) declared: “The slaughterers of men kiss the calves.”
This gives us an insight into the PETA activists who are pro-choice. They believe like Professor Singer in Princeton that man has no godly spark. He is nothing but an animal, and an uppity one at that. How dare he presume to exercise dominion over the creatures of the field, the sky and the sea? The animals are just props in their war against Genesis, against God. They are not so thick they don’t know an aborted child suffers more than an overfed goose. The pain of that child is just a bit of human sacrifice in their pagan war to unseat man from his imposture on the throne of Creation.
Were I Mr. Puck I would say: “Live and let liver.” Then I would label those phonies with the two adjectives they have so richly earned: fey, gross.
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