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By now you’ve undoubtedly heard about the lifting of Chicago’s ban on foie gras, a feather fight that lasted almost two years. The news has been picked up by news outlets around the world, with stories headlined “Culinarians Rejoice” or “Let Them Eat Terrine” describing self-proclaimed “gourmands” celebrating their right to liver on as if it were the 21st Amendment and the Treaty of Versailles all wrapped up in caul fat.
The thing is, the ban was bogus all along. The no-foie law was loosely enforced, at best: As far as I know, only one restaurant owner—Doug Sohn of Hot Doug’s hot dog stand—was smacked with the $250 fine, and that for defiantly serving foie gras in the form of a liver-laced dog named after the law’s original sponsor, Joe Moore.
I was in Chicago last weekend, just two days before the ordinance was lifted, and spotted foie gras on menus across the city. “All we have to do is call is ‘faux gras’ or give it away 'for free' [and charge $20 for the accompanying toast points],” said one waiter at a well-known establishment, “and the city leaves us alone.”
Since the foie gras ban was enforced as heavily as traveling in the NBA (thank you, Dr. J), nothing really changes with its termination, and nobody really benefits, except for a few self-promoting restaurant owners (see above) and chefs who’ve craftily used the whole ordeal for free publicity. The most bizarre example: Chef Didier Durand, the ban’s most vocal opponent and a talking head in countless news accounts, posed outside of his restaurant holding—what?—his pet duck, Nicolai.
Nobody really benefits, but I can think of one duck who might want to file an appeal.