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Home > FOIE GRAS Guide and Articles  >  There are only two delicacies in the world that are considered "kings"

There are only two delicacies in the world that are considered "kings"

There are only two delicacies in the world that are considered "kings of the kitchen". The first delicacy was invented by Russians - it is black caviar. Its history goes back to ancient times. It is known that even in XI century Kiev grand princes supplied it to monks of Athon monasteries. The second delicacy is much younger. It is just a little older than two hundred years. This is the famous pate de foie gras - goose liver pate.


The history of birth of this miracle dish is precisely documented, we have even the memories of a participant of the first eating of this top of French cuisine. So, everything happened in 1778 in Alsace. Marquis de Contad - a French marshal and the ruler of Strasbourg - told his cook Jean Pierre Clause the famous phrase: "Today I wish to treat my guests to a real French cuisine." The cook thought for a while, and a new dish - foie gras - was born. A participant of that memorable dinner Briyar-Savarin, a great expert in gastronomic business of that time, left the following memoir: "When the dish was carried into the hall, all conversations stopped at once and the faces of all who were present expressed lust, ecstasy and joy." Immediately after this historical meal the marshal ordered the cook to prepare another portion of his invention, which was then sent to Paris to the king Louis XVI. The court has instantly appreciated the exquisiteness of the new dish. Foie gras had very quickly conquered the hearts of all Frenchmen. Since then goose liver pate is the dish number one of French national cuisine.

The first recipe of the pate included the liver of several geese seasoned with goose fat and spices. The classical version of foie gras has appeared a little later. Nicolas Fransouis Douan - chief cook of the parliament of Bordeaux - added black truffle from Perigor to the Strasbourg pate. This is how "Strasbourg goose liver pate in Perigor truffles" has appeared.


Every self-respecting French restaurant making a claim for "stardom" must have at least one recipe of foie gras in its menu. Cooks' fantasies can be most sophisticated: foie gras in a cognac sauce, foie gras with kiwi and grapes, foie gras with curry and cinnamon, even with oranges and pineapples. Restaurants offer these dishes all year long, but for most Frenchmen it is a treat for the Christmas table, similar to turkey for British and Americans.

The classical recipe of foie gras is simple enough. Take eight hundred grams liver of one goose, add fifteen grams of spices, salt and pepper, pour a glass of cognac over it and leave on ice overnight. In the morning add two minced truffles and a glass of Madera and mush all that for about an hour until it becomes a smooth paste. After that, the product is placed on a water bath into a preheated oven and stewed for about an hour. When it is taken out of the oven, pour goose fat over it. It is served chilled and cut in fifty grams servings.


The inventor of foie gras used the liver of several geese to cook his pate, but since the beginning of XIX century in Strasbourg - and later in the whole France - it became common to use the liver of one goose for one portion of pate. But a normal goose, even with all its love to its owners, can't provide enough liver for a portion of almost a kilogram, because the weight of its liver is no more than a hundred grams. But Alsace goose breeders have invented quite a barbarian way of growing the geese to provide liver for the famous pate. Paws of the poor birds were nailed to boards, so that the movements wouldn't interfere with feeding. Their eyes were pricked out so that the view of the outer world wouldn't distract them from the main purpose - gaining weight. The poor geese were forcedly stuffed with nuts, at the same time the consumption of water was severely constrained. With such measures it was achieved that the liver of such geese reached in weight as much as twelve hundred grams.

This barbarity made shiver even the famous French gourmet of the middle of XIX century, count de Courchamp, a member of Chamber of Peers of France. He has submitted a petition from the name of Strasbourg geese to the Chamber of Peers.

Modern French geese are not subjected to such tortures as their ancestors in the XIX century. But they are still forcedly fed and contained in special pens, which severely constrain the birds' movements. The feeding of the goose is a torture. A funnel is inserted into the throat of the poor bird and wheat is dropped through it. The neck of the goose is massaged so that the food could reach the goiter and the bird wouldn't vomit away the excess of food. The bird that is fed this way is given very few water. Though the liver of modern geese can't compare with the liver of XIX century geese, it reaches 750-850 grams. At the same time it is so rich in fat that one can suspect it is a liver with cirrhosis. French veterinarians though claim that this liver doesn't have cirrhosis and therefore is absolutely safe for human consumption. However, the French prefer not to buy slaughtered geese that were grown for foie gras. And even more, the famous geese for Saint Martin's Day spend most of their life grazing in the wild - this gives their meat unique taste and tenderness.


Defense of animal rights is not only the privilege of aristocratic gourmets of XIX century. European Union got concerned with the rights of the poor geese bred for foie gras. First, French farmers are strongly recommended to stop forcible feeding of birds. Second, they will have to give more water to the birds. This recommendations of the EU actually question the very existence of the industry of growing birds for the main French restaurant delicacy. The liver of geese supplied by French farmers will not comply with restaurant standards if the geese are fed by EU techniques. As a result a lot of such farms - and they are mostly small suburb family farms - will go bankrupt. About fifteen thousand people in France can lose their stable incomes.

The EU decision has however caused a genuine happiness over the ocean, namely in Quebec. French Canadians - inhabitants of this province - have been breeding geese for foie gras for a long time. Perhaps soon they will become the only suppliers of goose liver for their historical motherland.


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