NEWSLETTER

What California Eats, So Does the Nation

Christophe Samaran holds a jar of foie gras at the boutique that bears his family’s name. Samaran is one of the Gascony region’s most celebrated producers and sellers of foie gras.
CHRIS O’BRIEN
Christophe Samaran holds a jar of foie gras at the boutique that bears his family’s name. Samaran is one of the Gascony region’s most celebrated producers and sellers of foie gras.
From semiconductors to cannabis weddings to emissions standards, California is often the birthplace of the next big thing. Is a ban on foie gras next?

A lot of great ideas start in California and spread east. Maybe it’s that Pacific breeze pushing innovation across the country, and to Europe and beyond. From semiconductors to cannabis weddings to emissions standards, the Golden State is often the birthplace of the next big thing. But as Chris O’Brien writes in the current issue of Alta, there’s at least one California concept that hasn’t been so well received.

The state’s foie gras ban, confirmed when the United States Supreme Court refused to hear a case contesting it in January, forbids California restaurants from serving the fatty goose livers. Animal advocates claim that the force-feeding required to create foie gras is inhumane. Die-hard fans of the delicacy maintain that it’s as harmless as any other animal product. Former Bay Area resident O’Brien, writing from his current home in Toulouse, near the heart of France’s foie gras country, details the process for making foie gras, explains its significance to French culture, and talks to farmers who insist that their work is misunderstood. Read O’Brien’s piece here

Will you miss ordering foie gras in California restaurants? We want to hear what you think. Email letters@altaonline.com to tell us which side of the foie fence you fall on—and why.

California’s outlawing of foie gras isn’t the only food movement making waves: Alta contributor Michael Bauer appeared on our podcast to discuss sustainability trends and $70 chicken, Gustavo Arellano took to our site to boldly announce his ambivalence toward In-N-Out Burger, and our Winter 2018 cover story heralded Los Angeles as the state’s culinary capital (ruffling some San Francisco feathers in the process).

California’s organic farming community is so storied, there’s concern that its farmers are getting too old to tend the land, and a new generation of real estate–strapped cultivators are learning how to grow produce (wait for it) vertically. The Golden State is even producing some of the world’s finest coffee beans—and one of the world’s most expensive cups of coffee.

Great culinary concepts and creators to emerge from California include Korean tacos, Alice Waters’s entire oeuvre, fortune cookies, martinis, the Mission burrito, Julia Child, It’s-Its, green goddess salad dressing, Irish coffee, farm-to-table dining, the Cobb salad, hot fudge sundaes, decent U.S. domestic wine, smoked-salmon pizza, the Impossible burger, and so much more. After all, what California eats prompts order envy in the rest of the country. While no other state has yet to take up the foie gras ban, if history is any indication, it’s only a matter of time.

This article appeared in our April 18, 2019 newsletter