Book Review: Mark Caro, ‘The Foie Gras Wars’

Veal, as a general rule, is the most questionable of all main courses to order in a restaurant. The treatment of calves to make this favoured dish is, if you’ll forgive the pun, rather hard to swallow. But the tradition of foie gras, forgotten by many and unknown to even more, is a close second.

If you are an uninitiated foodie, foie gras is the over-fattened liver of a very specific duck. The process of force-feeding a duck the amount of corn meal required to obtain this French delicacy is questionable at best and high on PETA’s list of barbaric practices to stop. Unfortunately, foie gras is extremely delicious, meaning the practice of raising ducks in this fashion is also several millennia-old.

In The Foie Gras Wars: How a 5,000-Year-Old Delicacy Inspired the World's Fiercest Food Fight, Mark Caro offers a balanced argument for both sides of the issue by giving equal footing to the positions of activists, farmers, chefs and foodies. At the same time, it is apparent that Caro sides with the gourmands on this issue. Even though he never openly admits it, he describes meals in mouth-watering detail as well as trips to foie gras farms filled with “happy ducks.”

The book stems from Caro’s involvement as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune in the 2005 municipal decision to ban foie gras in the city and the resulting strife between chefs, foodies and activists. The battle that ensued ultimately resulted in the ban being lifted in 2008. The Foie Gras Wars is well-written, speaking eloquently about both sides of the rather controversial issue and offering the reader a chance to make up their own mind despite Caro’s own bias.

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