There’s been some buzz the last few days about Anthony Bourdain’s Holiday Special, a likable, perverse piece of holiday programming recently on the Discovery Channel. (It’s like A Charlie Brown Christmas, except with foie gras, instead of a spindly tree.) The highlight of the show is Bourdain’s visit to a Hudson Valley foie gras farm, where he finds that ducks really don’t mind being force-fed and that foie gras is (surprise, surprise) all right to eat after all. Having visited the same farm ourselves, we can testify that the birds don’t seem to mind a periodic forced-stuffing; their long throats are built to handle whole spiny fishes, so a smooth tube going in for three seconds doesn’t bother them any more than a drunken handful of tater tots would you or me.
After the tube comes out, they walk contentedly away, showing not the slightest sign of distress. On the other hand, they are kept for their entire lives indoors and hardly see the sky or the water at all: “Living hothouses in which there grows the supreme fruit of gastronomy,” as nineteenth-century epicure Charles Gerard once called them. The poor ducks can’t be said to have fulfilling existences outside of feeding time. But then, we can’t really be said to have fulfilling existences outside of feeding time, either.