Is foie gras cruel? My friend Lois did a stage at a foie gras farm in Perigourd. (Her report was echoed recently by a near-identical reminiscence from Mille Fleurs restaurateur Bertrand Hug, about his grandparents’ foie gras farm.) Lois said that the geese, far from hating gavage, would crowd noisily around Mamère (Grandma) at feeding time, each trying to be first up into her lap. And geese, God knows, are not cuddly critters. But the real Mother Goose feeds her young by shoving her beak down their little throats and vomiting half-digested food straight down their gullets — mighty like gavage. So to her fowls, Mamère was Maman Oie, and gavage recreated babyhood comfort food. Veterinarians consistently refuse to condemn foie gras because it turns out to be natural in other respects as well: migratory waterfowl (wild geese and ducks) semiannually stuff themselves into fat-livered little blimps just before flying south for winter or north for summer.
Depending on the specific conditions of the farm, foie gras fowl are not mistreated, except that we eventually eat them; most enjoy far better lives than normal factory-raised chickens and mammals and egg-laying hens. (It’s the workers on large foie gras farms who may suffer — gavage-fed poultry relate to just one person to feed them — their personal Mother Goose — which puts their human feeders on a relentless round-the-clock schedule.)
PETA’s focus on foie gras is not because the feeding method is actually “inhumane” but because of the easy target it presents. Not only does the feeding-tube look ugly and scary to humans (because we have a gag reflex and the birds don’t) but — obese geese? Yuck! Nobody likes a fatty — so PETA has succeeded in turning foie gras into forbidden food by playing on societal prejudices about body shapes. It has little to do with natural reality, much less the fowls’ own viewpoint, which they express with their behavior both in the wild and on the farm. Me? I’m eating foie gras as long as I can get it, preferring science and sensuality over Disneyesque sentimentality and vegan-evangelist puritanism. I’m so evil, I eat Bambi and Thumper and even Donald and Daffy — so long as they’re humanely and organically raised.
L’Auberge Del Mar, 1540 Camino Del Mar, 858-793-6460, laubergedelmar.com/kitchen1540/.
HOURS: Three meals daily, including Sunday brunch; dinner 6:00–10:00 p.m.
PRICES: Hot starters and raw plates, $8–$18; cured meats and artisan cheeses, $6 each; entrées, $16–$32; sides, $7; desserts, $3–$8.
CUISINE AND BEVERAGES: Clean, imaginative seasonal California “farm to plate” cuisine with local produce, sustainable seafood, natural meats, and house-cured charcuterie, utilizing both the latest and the most classic cooking techniques to bring out the flavors.
PICK HITS: Day-boat scallops with popcorn purée, wild nettle and ramp risotto with tempura-fried morels, corn agnolotti, Alaskan halibut with preserved Meyer lemon, beef tenderloin, Colorado lamb loin and braised leg, strawberry shortcake. Chef’s picks: scallops, Farm House Salad.
NEED TO KNOW: Resort-casual garb. Validated parking. Heated patio dining with tented cabanas for groups of six and up. Numerous lacto-vegetarian and several vegan appetizers, one veg entrée. Foie gras off-menu but available by request ($18).