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Opinion, Columnist, Food

Adieu, Foie Gras With A Giant Pepsi

Steve Stajich, Columnist
Santa Monica Mirror Archives
Steve Stajich, Columnist

Posted Jul. 6, 2012, 11:00 pm

Steve Stajich / Mirror Columnist

Santa Monica residents who hang on to interesting ‘foodie’ stories will likely remember when a restaurant near our airport was busted for selling whale sushi, with the restaurant closing its doors in March of 2011.

I think we were all on-board with that one, especially those of us that try to look out for the safety of whales. And I don’t think you have to be vegan to agree with a new California law beginning July 1 that will stop the making, cooking and selling of super-fatty goose and duck liver. And yet…

I’m wondering if the foie gras ban will somehow be deployed and pilloried by those who tend to bark out loud about “big government.”

With so many things needing attention these days, you have the state jumping in and saying, “Force-feeding ducks just so you can enjoy something tasty is wrong.” However images of gavage, the practice of forcing grain down the throat of a goose or duck until its liver is grossly enlarged, probably deliver a bigger emotional wallop at this point than that video loop of chubby human torsos waddling down the street… the loop that plays whenever it’s time to start talking about “national obesity” again. Which is why we saw those jiggle-belly shots again recently during reports that the Mayor of New York wanted to ban the sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces, a first-in-the-nation move that could take effect as soon as next March.

Both of these actions highlight a special space that government can sometimes occupy, which we might call the “Big Daddy” space or maybe the “Come on, you know it’s bad for you so we’re helping you stop it” space. There’s arguably been an uptick in this sort of intervention since the Feds successfully came down on Big Tobacco. Of course you need to remember that with cigarettes, those dudes lied. They lied about addiction; they denied that cigarettes were a nicotine delivery system. They wanted us to go back to the good old days where smoking was more like chewing gum, not a national health problem killing 440,000 citizens a year according to 2010 CDC figures.

Do we want government to act like a big set of Super Parents? I think the answer becomes “yes” because we lack other effective means of modifying wrong and even toxic behaviors. True, compelling documentary films can change your mind about such things as the health risks of the food at McDonald’s (“Super-Size Me”) or tolerance for rape and sexual abuse in the military (“The Invisible War”). But consider how obvious it is that one should not drive a car and text on their phone at the same time… and yet by my lights California’s law against that has barely impacted the behavior.

It’s jolly fun to rant against “big government” but… would the people that do that ranting repeal DUI laws? It’s a fair place to start the argument because DUI and drunken driving legislation doesn’t take away the freedom to be drunk. It only punishes you for operating a motor vehicle when you are drunk. And regardless of how punitive those laws become, they will never bring back the dead slaughtered by drunk drivers.

Let’s take another look at that cigarette deal. After we got the tobacco companies to pay hundreds of billions over 25 years to atone for what they’ve done, have we stopped smoking? One key area that involves many in our own city and greater LA is smoking in films and television. Has there been a reduction in the representation of smoking in entertainments? No. The official line on what’s changed is that now you only show conflicted or bad people smoking as a means of revealing their character. Or maybe Mom gave up cigarettes but the alien invasion drove her back to them and that’s okay because alien invasions are stressful. In terms of films and media, we’re back to the chewing gum attitude cited earlier. Years after the big tobacco settlement by “big government,” the job of not smoking or not finding cigarettes attractive and sexy is still up to you. And your kids.

That seems to contradict any notion that government somehow gets too big when it attempts to modify toxic behaviors. Unless those who rant against “big government” don’t really mean bigger government but rather no government involvement whatsoever.

Why would anyone logically argue against health care reform? Perhaps for the same reasons they would argue that we don’t need an Environmental Protection Agency. In a super PAC ad that runs with regularity on news channels to promote use of coal, the EPA is referred to as “their” EPA… meaning the Obama administration. Of course it’s “our” EPA, meant to keep corporations from so plundering the planet that we all die in a global environmental disaster. But, see, the EPA is “big government.” And now it’s “their” big government.

“More government” and “big government” will be tossed at us like flapjacks at a church pancake supper in the months from now to November. Maybe at one point those barking will invoke such things as ending the production of foie gras. But being allowed to gorge on fatty liver pate isn’t what they’re after. They want to be able to stuff themselves on everything in the store.

Post a comment


Jul. 6, 2012, 4:44:02 pm

Bob Abernethy said...

As far as the Big Tobacco litigation goes, you can call it what it really was the Big Shakedown by Big Government. The various Attorneys general did not bring their suit until revenues were adversely impacted by declining smoking rates. Remember, the States and Uncle Sam derived as much or more revenue from the sale of tobacco than did the industry itself. When the suit was settled, were individual smokers compensated? Hell no! When the litigation was settled, how was it funded? By higher prices paid by the individual smokers. And the individual smokers were not permitted to deduct the cost of this "virtual tax", although in light of the ruling in the Obamacare case, a strong argument could likely be made for deductability. This was just a smokescreen by the powers that be to offset a declining revenue stream. I'm not supporting Big Tobacco. My last smoke was on 15Feb03. Tobacco-related vascular disease has cost me both legs. Still, our government is supposed to protect out absolute right to be damned fools as long as we don't hurt others in the process. That's why the cynical fauz-concern shown by the Attorneys General burns my butt (sorry man, couldn't help that lasy one)

Jul. 6, 2012, 11:44:48 pm

christian said...

Right or wrong I can tell you as a Chef that if you think that whale meat eating does not go on in LA you are really naive. Foie gras production has been going on since the Egyptians as evidence will tell you on the hieroglyphs. You cannot compare cigarette smoking, drunk driving with eating foie gras. I think it's really scary when the government can tell you what to eat or not. Foie gras will be back in California. If you were really concerned about the welfare of animal what about banning ritual kosher or halal slaughter of animals which has been going on as long as foie gras exist?

Jul. 9, 2012, 12:42:13 am

wolflen said...

ohhh like big govt...pure and simple..its so you dont have to decide anything..just do as your told..its for your own good..politicians know way more than you do... first they came for my cigarettes..then they came for my rib eye stakes...then my beer (didnt we try that one already) then my car...then my guns...(well we will try like hell to take em away)..yeah big govt is good for free people everywhere..isn't it..

Jul. 14, 2012, 2:58:21 pm

B.B. said...

No foie gras, no cigarettes, no sushi ( hey! we are killing fish!)….No meat ..( we are killing cows)… What's next? We are becoming the source of jokes around the world. Oh! but Santa Monica just forgot the carbon monoxide from cars! The entire city is full of black dust in our windows, our patios, and OUR LUNGS. I would post a video in Youtube to help people to think twice about the "risks of smoking",,, I want to banned cars from SM. Yeap.

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