Friday, August 25, 2006

Food For Thought

The current community discussion centered around the serving of foie gras (as supply allows) at Moscow’s newest restaurant, West of Paris, offers a splendid example of the cultural divide between those within the Christ Church covenant and those who stand apart from it. The topic of a specific controversy, i.e., slavery in the antebellum South, obligation to pay property taxes, observance of city ordinances, human rights, the separation of church and state, or serving foie gras, is immaterial. The ensuing drama is always the same.

Act One: The Temperamental Chef
A representative or member of Christ Church acts or communicates in a way guaranteed to garner a spirited response from the larger community.

Act Two: The Pot Is Stirred
The dramatic tension rises with the introduction of howls of religious persecution, protests of righteousness, and claims of victimization on the one hand; countered by appeals to well-documented history, the city code, and respect for human rights on the other. Gratuitous insults are exchanged by all parties, which represent the comedic aspect of the play.

Act Three: Gag Me With A Spoon
The denouement includes a public denunciation of opponents by all parties and occasionally, intervention by government entities (generally interpreted as an insufficient remedy by one side, or a vivid example of divine blessing and approval of the precipitating action or words by the other). Unlike a well-crafted play, the audience is consequently denied a reasonable resolution. Instead, a hardening of previously held positions, a shouldering of additional grudges, and a strong premonition — given the current cast — that within six months the production will again be on center stage in Moscow.

Throwing aside (only for a moment) the religious components that cloak any Christ Church related topic, what reaction did Monsieur Foucachon expect when he announced in an interview with the The Daily Evergreen, “his new restaurant is just the opposite of what most Americans consider acceptable meals . . . [instead] he wants to use the French ‘gastronomy’ style of cooking to show people how to truly enjoy dining again.”

Were we, the dimwitted denizens of the Palouse, supposed to clap our dirty paws together in anticipatory glee when a Presbyterian minister from Lyon, France, promises to unlock the secrets of fine dining for us? Once again, the hubris of a Kirker trumps good manners, gracious humility, and, tellingly, by his own belittling words and know-it-all attitude, sabotages his new business. (A little FYI to Monsieur Foucachon: I don’t know anyone who raises their kids on corndogs and cotton candy, much less anyone who routinely relies on squat-and-gobble eateries for dinner.)

Thus ends Act One.

In a private email to me, Monsieur Foucachon confirmed the accuracy of the Daily News article by Alexis Bacharach, published August 23, 2006:
He wants local activists, who got their hands on an outdated menu earlier this week, to know their threats of protest mean nothing to him or his staff. . . . “This is a group that was looking for something to use against my business and they found something,” he said. “While I believe there are some valid concerns here, I’m not going to stop serving what people want. I will put foie gras on my menu again.”

The translation (for those who aren’t familiar with Kirkspeak) is this: Speaking for myself and family, as is my divine right in a federal household, I don’t care who I offend especially if they are picking on me for religious reasons. Furthermore, I will continue to offend those people because even if there are ethical issues involved I can profit from the transactions while enjoying the bonus of flipping off pagans who are bound for hell. My real friends, connoisseurs who gladly gulp great gobs of greasy goose liver, applaud my moral courage and great business vision.

West of Paris, sans foie gras, was always a precarious venture. Zume Bakery’s failure should have been a red flag to Mr. Foucachon. Despite the self-serving encouragement emanating from those who risked nothing, and disregarding the unhappy institutional affiliation with New Saint Andrews College, an expensive French restaurant with a pretentious menu is probably not going to be a successful venture in Moscow. While it is handy to have a cast of thousands to blame, ultimately, the responsibility rests on Mr. Foucachon — not on the folks who refuse to patronize West of Paris.

End of Act Two: hold the applause, please, this sad tale offers nothing to clap about.

Act Three: Yet to be performed.

Finally, and in my view, most importantly, I must comment on the religious aspect of this new Kirk-related debacle. I am offended beyond measure that while children go to bed hungry on the Palouse, single mothers or fathers agonize over inadequate means with which to feed and care for their families, elderly or disabled people choose between buying food or paying rent, a minister of the gospel — an avowed Christian — puts his money and his efforts into inaugurating an elitist restaurant where fat-assed, gluttonous, bearded bores swill expensive wine and lick their oily pendulous chops in anticipation of a cholesterol-laden feast.

Francis Foucachon, I say to you in truth, rethink this venture. Establish a soup kitchen where your skills will be appreciated and respected. Feed the hungry for free and those of us with the resources to do so will gladly pay for their soup, salad, and sandwiches as well as our own. Use your daughter’s considerable skill in interior design to create a space of beauty and peace that nourishes the soul as well as the eye of all diners. Treat those with the greatest needs with the greatest respect. Create a testimony with your life that truly glorifies God by serving those who are suffering, hungry, and vulnerable.

Rosemary Huskey