What Exactly IS Foie Gras?

Foie gras is the liver of fattened ducks or geese.
According to a 2011 survey, by the global market research company IPSOS, 48% of the French consider “foie gras” as the dish the most emblematic of their country’s gastronomy (despite the fact that according to another survey, this time by animal rights activists, 44% are against the birds force-feeding!)
In France two regions – Alsace and the Southwest – compete for the title of the “inventor” of foie gras, even though in reality, its existence dates apparently from… ancient Egypt when the process of geese force-feeding was already known as attested by some old tomb frescos.(It is not known if the Egyptians were actually eating the liver of the birds or were just feeding them for obtaining a fat animal – the fat of ducks was then as it is now an excellent way for meat preservation).
During the Roman times the “foie gras” was already a savored dish and the ducks and geese were feed with dried figs – the poet Horace for example was appreciative of the liver of the fattened white geese.
After the arrival of the corn from the “New World” in the 16th century the figs were replaced with a hot corn porridge.
In 1750 the foie gras appears in the famous at the time “Dictionnaire des aliments, vins et liqueurs” of Briand, where he gives away different recipes using it.

Nowadays the foie gras can be bought anywhere in the French supermarkets, specialty stores and the farmer’s markets.
It comes uncooked, fresh – usually it is this way it is bought at the farmer’s market – or frozen, ready to be prepared, then semi-cooked – a process that allows it to have a longer shelf life then the 48th hours the shelf life of the fresh one – and of course already cooked and put into jars. The cooked foie gras can be kept in its jar for several years and apparently, as in the case of wine, it becomes better with the time.

In terms of quality there are 3 levels: “foie gras entiere” meaning a block from a single liver – which offer the best quality -, the “foie gras” denomination that describes several block of liver put together and “bloc de foie gras” that describes a product obtained from morsels of different livers processed together for obtaining a product of homogenous color and texture.

When served with slices of foie gras the French consider a “crime” to have it spread on the bread. It has to be placed in thin slices on the bread or better yet eaten with knife and fork!

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