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History of foie gras

by Gourmet Food World


Foie gras today is solidly ensconced in the tradition of French cooking. In France, foie gras is haute cuisine, a luxury item, and the ultimate in decadence, served at the best tables, restaurants and during the holidays. However, the history of foie gras doesn’t start in France, but much farther away, thousands of years ago.


The earliest recorded history of foie gras comes from images dated around 2400 BC, in Egypt. The Romans popularized the practice of force-feeding geese a diet of delicious figs, then bathing the enlarged liver with milk and honey before serving it. This practice was in time spread throughout the vast Roman Empire. Foie gras even at its beginning was always a rarity, an exotic treat of the upper classes.


Foie gras really enters the French culinary scene with a vengeance during the reigns of Luis XV and Luis XVI. Foie gras was served in the royal courts, and was even bartered for a large piece of land in Alsace in 1788! (The land sold for a locally made pate of foie gras). The delicious foie gras craze spread down to the middle classes, and after the revolution it continued to be a sought after delicacy in France. Today, the main foie gras regions in France are still in the Southwest, and foie gras is so deeply entrenched in the culture that French law declares that foie gras "belongs to the protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France."


Foie gras comes to America thanks to the waves of European immigrants, who brought with them their culinary traditions. The 1980s saw an explosion of popularity of French Cordon Bleu cuisine, where foie gras is a definite showcase. At that point, foie gras was imported from France, but incredibly difficult to get. A few enterprising and food-loving Americans saw their opportunity anddecided to delve into the world of foie gras, starting their own duck foie gras operations in the United States (Hudson Valley Foie Gras was the first, and still supplies most of the American market).


Today, most of the foie gras in the world still is produced in France, and that nation is also the largest consumer of this delicacy (lucky!). Other large foie gras producers are Hungary, Bulgaria, the US and Canada (these last two only produce duck foie gras). Rougie, one of the largest producers of foie gras in France, recently opened up shop in Canada in order to better supply the American market. Foie gras history is long and distinguished, and this delicacy has been a symbol of culinary luxury since its beginnings!

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