French: foie gras
History & Tradition
It was the Egyptians who discovered foie gras around 2500 BC. Hunters along the Nile noticed that the liver of the geese were bigger, paler and much tastier during the migration period than the rest of the year. They came to understand that this enlarged liver was the result of the geese overfeeding themselves before their migration. Migratory birds have the genetic capacity to stock surplus food in their liver, which then acts as an energy tank on which the bird can draw during its long and tiring journey.
The Egyptians particularly appreciated the taste of the foie gras, but since it could only be obtained during very short period of the year, they decided to reproduce that natural phenomenon themselves all year round. They started to feed geese with figs in order to get a tasty foie gras. Later on, the geese were replaced with ducks and the figs with corn.
The Jews were the first to develop the art of feeding. In fact, in Central Europe between the 13th and 18th century, they were known for their foie gras of high quality and impressive size. But it was the French who contributed to the popularity of foie gras by improving the feeding technique. It was also the French who developed the various methods for cooking foie gras that are known today. Foie gras torchon style, foie gras in a bloc and foie gras mousse are recipes that were developed by great French chefs. Over the years, the French developed a passion for foie gras that they spread worldwide.
Foie gras production was developed in Alsace by Jean-Pierre Clause, chef to Marshal Contades, the military governor of Strasbourg from 1762 until 1788. Since the Roman legions arrived in Alsace and began using geese to guard farms, no one had been able to resist foie gras, so meltingly soft and tender that a single bite has been know to make a grown man cry.
An artisanal process
To better understand the process, we went to Aux Champs Élisé to meet the owner, Élisé François, who explained to us the steps of foie gras production. From
Although there are those who decry the practice of force-feeding, we should remember that it reproduces a natural phenomenon, since migratory birds overeat before their annual migrations. Despite the presence of sophisticated modern equipment, foie gras production still depends heavily on traditional methods involving a lot of hands-on labor, which explains the high price of foie gras.
Photo : Champs Élisé
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