MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Chicago's ban on foie gras took effect a year ago today. And so far, only one restaurant has been fined for serving the delicacy, which is the liver of a fattened goose or duck. The ban is just one of a number of Chicago laws that seek to change behavior.
As Chicago Public Radio's Adriene Hill reports, those laws aren't always enforced.
ADRIENE HILL: Chicago foodies still quest for foie gras, and some restaurants accommodate it in spite of the ban.
I'm here at Cyrano's Bistrot. It's lunchtime, just after 1:15, waiting to talk to the chef at a table, looking at the lunch menu - no foie gras on it. So I'll talk to the chef when he gets here about where it is because I've heard he should be able to find it.
Chef, how are you?
Cyrano chef Didier Durand has been at the forefront of the fight to overturn the city's foie gras ban. He says that today he does have the delicacy at his downtown Chicago restaurant, but only for customers who ask. And Durand has coined a name for this sort of restaurant - one reminiscent of Chicago during Prohibition.
Mr. DIDIER DURAND (Chef, Cyrano's Bistrot and Wine Bar): Duck-easies, you know, like speak-easies. They are called, you know, duck-easies.
HILL: Durand gets around the ban by not charging for the foie gras he serves. He charges instead for the salad that comes with it. And giving away foie gras in Chicago seems to be okay with the city's Health Department.
Spokesman Tim Hadac says his office has better things to do than enforce the ban.
Mr. TIM HADAC (Spokesman, Chicago's Health Deparment): Quite frankly, every hour we spend on foie gras is an hour we don't spend protecting people from food-borne illness.
Professor PAUL GREEN (Political Science, Roosevelt University): It's nonsense because we've got real issues in Chicago including a budget crisis. We have to work on the Olympics for 2016, education, housing - the usual menu. Put it like this: if Chicago and its government was a menu, foie gras would not be on it.
HILL: Paul Green is a political science professor at Roosevelt University. He compares debating foie gras to going on a date and only holding hands - there's no real intensity, but to kill some time.
Chicago City councilmembers have proposed other similar laws over the years including a trans fat ban, a dress code for cab drivers, and a system for horse waste derided as horse diapers. There's a fireworks ban that's roundly ignored on holidays, and there's a law banning the use of handheld cell phones while driving. So far this year, police have issued about 9,000 tickets for that offense. Chicago motorists continue to drive with their phones pressed to their ears.
Truck driver Luquan(ph) Griffith says the cell phone ban is one that he supports.
Mr. LUQUAN GRIFFITH (Truck driver): So, yeah, that's a good, real good policy. They need to enforce it more.
HILL: And what do you think about the city's ban on foie gras?
Mr. GRIFFITH: On what?
HILL: On foie gras? It's the fattened liver of a goose or duck.
Mr. GRIFFITH: Well, I really don't know. I really don't pay attention to goose or duck.
HILL: Not paying attention - that's just the attitude Chicago Mayor Richard Daley thinks the city should take. At a press conference last year, he laid in to the city council.
Mayor RICHARD DALEY (Chicago): You can't eat this, you can't eat that. The city council will be sitting in your basic kitchen to determine whether or not what you should eat at a Sunday after church.
HILL: But Alderman Joe Moore, who pushed the foie gras ban says he stands by it.
Mr. JOE MOORE (Alderman of the 49th Ward, Chicago): Everyone keeps saying that the city is the laughingstock. I don't hear anybody laughing. I don't hear anyone else laughing about compassion or banning torture of creatures.
HILL: And he says he's ready to turn his attention to other pressing issues. One thing on the city council's agenda? Allowing dogs to sit next to owners at outdoor restaurants.
For NPR News, I'm Adriene Hill in Chicago.
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