Appetizer. Chicken Liver Toast. Tandoori Octopus. Grilled Quail. Pig Ears. Kale Salad. Foie Gras Loco Moco.
Feast. We were still hungry afterwards…so all of them were kind of like appetizers. But it was good munchin’.
Dessert. Bacon-choco Crunch Bar.
During the meal, my friend (names are hidden to protect the innocent) brought up a funny, albeit interesting point about foie gras (fatty duck liver).
He said, “What would happen if we got ducks seriously, ridiculously, crazily drunk, all the time, off alcohol? What would the consistency of their livers be like?”
I was about say, “What in the world are you on? (and can I have some too?)” But a split second later, I chuckled at the thought of it. In humans the liver is what processes alcohol. Folks who are alcoholics, and/or are obese, may possess “fatty liver disease.” (I am not a doctor, nor am I bashing on any of these categorizations). Anyway, fatty liver disease is basically the abnormal accumulation of adipose (fat, basically) in the adipose cells of the liver, by a process known as steatosis. Fat deposition occurs at a heightened rate in these cells, sometimes even to the point of bursting.
Science and medical anthropology aside, I wondered if feeding ducks excessive amounts of alcohol instead of force feeding them normal chow would produce the same results. Technically, it could, couldn’t it? Instead of a fatty liver induced by overeating and obesity, we could obtain fatty liver via alcoholism. It’s an interesting thought; does this produce any differences in flavor? I would suspect so, since currently in the world, there’s a normal way of raising foie gras, and an “ethical” way to do it. The normal way is to use a tube to force feed the ducks food; a tube is utilized to gorge the ducks beyond satiety. This in effect not only fattens them up quicker, but the increased burden on their digestive system necessitates the liver to kick into overdrive. I’m guessing like most living, breathing creatures, the liver is the detoxifying center for our bodies. The liver is also storage for glycogen. Overload it, and eventually the fat’s gotta go somewhere. “Ethical” foie gras is raised analogously to how free-range/pastured chickens are raised. They’re fed normally, on most likely a diet of grass, bugs, and nature’s finest. They’re allowed to roam around in free space. Obviously they grow to maturity much slower, and live a very comfortable life. Granted, when the livers are compared side by side, the ethical foie gras is drastically smaller. I do not know of the taste difference. But what of the third scenario? Well, we could raise ducks in a free-range environment, let them run around, eat bugs n’ grass, but what happens if we let them PARTAY? (That is, increase the alcohol content of their meals). What’s the legal limit for a duck? Do ducks feel inebriation? Do they have just as much fun playing king’s cup or beer pong as the average college-dorm schmuck?
We may never know.
But would obtaining fatty liver via intoxication be less or more ethical than overstuffing them with food? In a hedonistic sense (for the duck, and eventually for us), it can be an interesting thought, no? (Or maybe you just think I’m ridiculously bonkers now. It’s okay, you’ll probably keep reading anyway).
The above is strictly HYPOTHETICAL, and completely thought-based. No actual ducks were harmed in this thought. Do not try this at home. Instruction manual not included. Batteries not included. Additional charges may apply.
I have no stance on the ethical debate of foie gras production, nor do I intend to go off, buy ducks, and try any of the tweaks mentioned above. This post is simply an amusing freehand of my thoughts. I’ve watched documentaries regarding normal foie gras production, as well as “sustainable” foie gras production. Youtube it. I have learned information, and enjoy indulging my quirky imagination. That is all.
Onto the bacon dessert.
What is it that makes bacon so good, one could pair it with DESSERT? Salty, savory, cured bacon. If it wasn’t cured, it’d be called pork belly.
What in the world does it mean to cure something?
To cure something, such as bacon, or ham, is simply to salt it. Salt in this case, can scientifically refer to NaCl, or other potential combinations of cation and anion. In old times, the salt usually used was saltpeter, which is essentially KNO3 (Potassium nitrate). Similar to salting meat before cooking it, heavy salting can alter color, flavor, as well as shelf-life. Salt, at sufficient concentrations, can denature proteins and in essence, “cook” meat. An example of this would be smoked salmon. Raw, fresh salmon is sliced thinly, heavily salted and dried, and then subsequently smoked. At no point is there any heat really involved, yet there remains no need to actually “cook” smoked salmon before ingestion. This certainly isn’t a green light to devour raw bacon or serve raw Christmas ham, as curing doesn’t always necessarily eliminate the need for cooking.
Somewhere along the way, it was discovered that NO2, or nitrite, was the active form of “curing” agents; nitrite imparts a sharp kick to the cured food, and increases self life by creating NO (nitric oxide) in meats; subsequent binding to the iron heme of myoglobin prevents oxidation of that iron (basically prevents iron from losing electrons), thus retaining a beautiful red color. Nitrite is also a natural inhibitor of bacteria. This is why on the back of packages of bacon, we see ingredients such as “less than 2% of sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate…” it’s basically what makes bacon have that bacon-y flavor.
Here’s a picture to get you salivating.
Who doesn’t like bacon?