As soon as we arrive in Paris, we hit the French cuisine starting with foie gras with crusty farmhouse bread and Confit de Vin (wine jelly) and let it melt in our mouths.
By the end, we still haven’t lost our love for the delicacy and are forgoing other French cuisine to eat foie gras not just as a starter but for lunch and dinner, with lots of pink wine.
Simply put, Foie Gras means ‘fatty liver’ in French. I was surprised to hear that it originated with the ancient Egyptians who noticed their geese eating large amounts of food in winter, which resulted in the birds’ expanding livers. Soon they began eating goose liver, taking it on trips down the Nile for protein and sustenance. There are even ancient drawings showing their farmers force feeding the geese, so they must have been keen on the stuff.
The Romans caught onto the idea; can you imagine Cleopatra passing on goose liver recipes to Marc Antony or Caesar? They started force-feeding the geese figs, which made the Foie Gras richer and sweeter and it soon became a prized delicacy, eaten by emperors and nobility.
It disappeared in the Middle Ages, although the recipe may have been kept alive by Jews as it one of the meats they could eat unrestricted by religion. It was finally revived when French chef Jean-Pierre Clause perfected the recipe into a royal dish, becoming once again a favourite of the rich and famous. Alexander Dumas, Italian composer Rossini, and Louis XVI, King of France all fancied it with Louis proclaiming it the “Dish of Kings”.
There are two different types of Foie Gras: Foie Gras d’Oie (goose Foie Gras) and Foie Gras de Canard (duck Foie Gras). Goose Foie Gras has a very rich and subtle taste and is considered to be the superior and original indulgence. It is silken and smooth in texture, with a creamy subtle flavour.
However, duck Foie Gras contains less fat and has a stronger more rustic flavour and richer aroma. Duck liver is more easily available and affordable since it is easier to produce.
It is unanimously agreed that French Foie Gras is the best. It is the most traditional, of the highest quality, and the French have perfected the art of making it and incorporating it into their time-honoured cuisine. Foie Gras vary between the methods used to cook them. Foie Gras can either be mi-cuit (half-cooked) or semi-conserve (in conserve).
The perfect pairing – Wine and Foie Gras. The quest to find the perfect marriage of each is taken on by professional connoisseurs and amateurs the world over. Whether you want to be told what to do, or just enjoy experimenting with trial and error formulas to convince yourself that eating and drinking is truly a scientific and arduous responsibility, keep going until you find what you love most. Sit down and try a chardonnay, champagne or a rose with your foie gras and thank God for the French.
However hard one might try to spin it, the heavily foie gras influenced diet is definitely never going to work as well as Weight Watchers. Hooray, we cry, foie gras has zero carbs, until we remember with a jolt how high in fat it is. Luckily, the fat is high quality stuff; it is relatively ‘good’ monosaturated, polyunsaturated, ‘bad’ cholesterol reducing fat. So don’t feel too bad in indulging in a slice now and then.
Just don’t start replacing every single meal with the stuff like I tried to – and you’ll live to eat another day!