In The Spotlight
Because, occasionally, stuff comes about that matters more than the latest Facebook widget. Welcome to Brain Pickings Spotlight.
By Maria Popova
RESERVATION FOR HELL
A recent reader letter to GOOD Magazine (which is easily the best publication we’ve ever encountered, offline or on) pretty much nailed a much-dwelled-on gripe of ours. Here’s an excerpt:
Which is exactly what we were thinking last week when passing by a group of twenty-somethings who had chosen not to spend their Friday night lounging in a trendy downtown club, shooting the shit about their latest “green” purchases and their respectively respectable price tags. Instead, they’d chosen to spend the night doing some real, grassrootsy, gritty green activism on the streets of Philly.
Just minutes after we snapped this shot, more kids joined them, more flyers were handed to curious hands, more people stopped to ask questions.
Sure, it’s tempting to write them off as a bunch of self-righteous hippie types with nothing better to do than spoil the dinner of the swankier set. But we thought they might be on to something, so we poked around a bit.
Turns out the issue they were protesting goes far beyond pollution. It entails something called foie gras, French for “fatty liver,” which comes about in an incredibly gruesome way, making it pretty much the most cruelly produced food on the planet. Here’s some gory detail from the protesting kids’ way too cutseyly named but nonetheless right-on website, Hugs for Puppies:
It gets even worse when you step inside a foie gras farm. Now, from our own experience with the PSPCA, we can spot animal cruelty when we see it. And this one’s hitting us over the head with a metal pipe.
But here’s the thing — the kids at Hugs for Puppies mean business. Since 2005, they convinced 15 Philly restaurants, including dining meccas by Stephen Starr, Neil Stein, Susanna Foo and George Perrier, to nix foie gras from their menus.
So what’s the deal with Matyson? We’re not shy about asking. Turns out, the kids met with the owner several times last year and his response is frankly bewildering to us: he simply “didn’t care either way.” So it’s not that he wants to sell some more gourmet cruelty, or that he wants to please his patrons, or even that he happens to think his foie gras is particularly spectacular. Indifference, really, can be more despicable than any act of corrupt self-interest.
Still, the owner reluctantly agreed to take the stuff of the menu, promising to “only” offer it as an off-menu specialty. That was a few months ago. Recently, foie gras crept back onto the Matyson menu. Hence the protest.
The activists even started a website exposing this particular restaurant’s numerous environmental and humane sins, and offering dining alternatives that are less, you know, vile. But on the foie gras front, Matyson is not alone — a number of other local restaurants still serve it and, for your boycotting pleasure, here they are exposed. So drop them like a needy boyfriend and go with these guys instead — they nixed the gory stuff after getting the full scoop.
Okay, on a brighter note, the Hugs for Puppies folks actually have a quite a bit of neat, ungory stuff on their website. Including this nifty Philly Veg Eating Guide. Now here’s a way to never witness, pay for, or experience any force-feeding through a metal pipe.
Published October 2, 2007