Friday, May 31, 2013

Gavage by Chuck Wendig

One day, when Chuck is super duper famous and one of the elite in Hollywood with a series on every major network in every country far and wide, I will be able to tell all my neighbor kids about the time I shared the backseat of a Mercedes with Chuck... while bonding over carsickness. I even brought him gifts for the occasion. And it was spectacular!  Here's a picture of our time together... after the carsickness wore off.  Thanks for being my guest today, Chuck. 


I’m kind of a foodie.

I figure, life is short. Might as well eat well – and not just an “eat for pleasure” kind of a thing but also an “eat for maximum health” thing. See, food is dirty. Its industry is largely corrupt. Organic used to mean something but then lobbying moved the goalposts. Monsanto wants to stick seeds in your farm-dirt that you can’t reproduce from year to year and hey who cares if the stuff is becoming pest-resistant and bred with pesticides in ‘em. Here in Pennyslvania we have fights between Big Dairy and Little Dairy—the little guys won the right a few years ago to sell raw milk long as it’s tested and regulated, and the Big Guys tried suing the Little Folks just for saying that the milk is hormone-free, and now the Big Guys are back with a new governor trying to push Little Dairy back out of the picture again by making their organic raw milk illegal.

Food is full of scary people doing scary things.

And those scary things often result in what’s on our plate.

So, let’s talk about foie gras.

Foie gras is the liver of a duck or goose—particularly a liver that has been fattened.

I’m not a fan of liver, really.

But I love me some foie gras.

It’s like eating some kind of magical meat butter. It’s unctuous and creamy and has a tinge of sweetness to it. It’s an amazing food. It sounds strange and off-putting. It’s not.

However, in some states, you can’t eat the stuff.

Because it’s illegal.

Here’s why: opponents say that it’s cruel. The act of creating foie gras requires gavage, or the force-feeding of ducks and geese, and that sounds pretty horrible. Force-feeding is something we do to prisoners and torture victims. Opponents paint a picture of us shoving food into duck maws as they struggle to escape.

Two things, though:

First, if you’ve ever actually seen gavage, the animals like it. If they’re raised on a humane farm, they’ll run to the act of gavage, not away from it. Ducks aren’t like people. They don’t savor their food. They just want it in their belly.

Second, if you’ve ever paid attention to the way meat is actually produced in this country, it’s rife with acts a thousand times more disgusting than gavage: mutant chickens with three wings and tumors whose corpses end up getting fed to cows or pigs (called “chicken litter”), and pigs are held in cramped containers that during their whole lives never lets them turn around 180 degrees.

Gavage is a distraction. Opponents fight it and then go home and eat a chicken breast from a headless chicken force-grown into an adult chicken in less than half the time it would normally take. A chicken pumped with water, hormones, and antibiotics. A chicken that never saw the sun.

Ah, but! Gavage represented for me a really interesting fictional opportunity—here’s this thing that’s illegal and prized as a delicacy and ironically kept from the people who are willing to pay to keep it ethical. And I wondered, could that open the act up to unethical practices? Could people’s inability to eat foie gras lead them to black market foie gras? Are there crime seeds in forbidden food?

And so, the story of “Gavage” was born.

Hope you check out the collection.

Hope you like it!

Chuck is the author of the published novels: Blackbirds, Mockingbird, Double Dead, Bait Dog, and Dinocalypse Now. He also the author of the soon-to-be-published novels: The Blue Blazes, The Cormorant, Heartland Books 1/2/3, Beyond Dinocalypse, Dinocalypse Forever, Harum Scarum, and Gods & Monsters: Unclean Spirits.
Much of his writing advice has been collected in various writing- and storytelling-related e-books.
He currently lives in the forests of Pennsyltucky with wife, two dogs, and newborn son.
He is likely drunk and untrustworthy.


Sabrina E. Ogden said...

I loved your story for FEEDING KATE, Chuck... and after reading your post I'm actually considering veganism. Probably not what you had in my mind, but I'm a sensitive soul. All those images of pigs stuck in cages and chickens never seeing the sun? Yeah, I've got some thinking to do. Thanks for being my guest... and for being such a great friend.

Laura Benedict said...

Sabrina, it's been great to see read some of the stories behind the stories of Feeding Kate. Love that you did this!

There is no more intense a food story in the book than "Gavage." Loved it from the opening lines.

Can't bear foie gras, myself. I first read Chuck's story about the time I heard an APR piece about a guy in Spain who manages to gavage-up wild ducks. And I'm glad Chuck commented here about the food industry practices we look away from everyday. Sometimes it takes a fiction-writer to speak the truth.

Anonymous said...

And you wonder why I don't eat meat! Between THE JUNGLE and the vegan speaker at school, I couldn't have been more grossed out if the cafeteria started making poop sandwiches. Poopwiches. And by the time I was less grossed out, I found I didn't miss it and had become rather intolerant, physically, of chicken contamination.