I have discovered a powerful argument in favour of ever-closer union with Europe and cannot think why the federasts have not used it. A girl I know who is a professional cook had been using Selfridges as a speakeasy. Although the shop had banned the sale of foie gras, a good butcher with a franchise on the premises would act as a bootlegger. If you asked him for French fillet, he would provide foie gras. Alas, the Selfridges food police found out and closed him down. We should all boycott the House of Selfridge until it comes to its senses.
So where was the EU? What is wrong with a common European foie gras policy? It should be illegal for Selfridges to refuse to sell the stuff. Equally, British laws which ban its production should be struck down. If it is lawful to make the stuff in Perigord, the same should apply in Potter’s Bar. The late Bron Waugh considered going into the foie gras business on his Somerset acres, far enough from London to be beyond the reach of the law courts. According to his researches, the geese enjoyed their meals and would greet the gorgeuse with a joyous waddle. There was one drawback. It would take an hour of female labour per diem to funnel enough grain down the goose’s gullet. But such a repetitive task does not require a high-class workforce. The dimmest girl from the boggiest-standard comprehensive should be up to it. A British foie gras industry is overdue.
At the time of the millennium, I had an instructive foie gras experience. It was during a well-supplied house party in Bruges. The cleaning woman’s boyfriend was thinking of going into the foie gras trade — imagine that in Potter’s Bar — and had given the house a large bloc of pâté to advertise his wares. It was as good as the foie gras I had eaten at the Gavroche just before Christmas. We ate half at dinner, but the next morning, there was none left for a pre-lunch amuse-gueule. Your correspondent fell under suspicion, as did a brace of Cecils. Public opinion took the view that the three of us had the necessary combination of amorality and gluttony to perpetrate such a crime. Then the culprit was revealed: a female American banker. Not that she had even eaten the pâté, which would have entitled her to the Flemish female all-time foie gras-scoffing trophy. No, she had thrown it away. There were two lessons from this. First, when precious foodstuffs are at stake, do not trust the girls to clear the dining table without supervision. Second, the errant female was not an equal-opportunity appointment. She was a plausible aspirant to senior banking. But people who maltreat super-prime foie gras are not fit to be left in charge of sub-prime mortgages. It should have been possible to extrapolate from that lost foie gras to the banking crisis.
Assuming that you succeed in acquiring foie gras and protecting it from American bankers, what should you drink with it? There are lots of serious pudding wines, including those from Germany, Alsace, Hungary and the New World, which all work. But if you are fortunate enough to be adjacent to a bottle of Yquem, there is nothing finer; that truly is pâté de foie gras to the sound of trumpets.
I know: the price is atrocious, and there are other Sauternes and Barsacs which can seem almost as good. ‘Seem’ is the word. The longer it is since one has tasted that Sun God of a wine, the more plausible its rivals will seem. Then, the first sip, and hierarchy is restored. But there is a further alternative: Ygrec, Yquem’s drier cousin, which I first tasted over dinner with the late Ian Gilmour. I had some with foie gras over the New Year. It was a subtle and piquant experience and Ygrec is not so hideously expensive as its kinsman. That leads on to the obvious New Year resolution: eat as much foie gras as possible, acompanied, whenever possible, by Yquem or Ygrec.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated January 7, 2012