A Short History of Foie Gras
To put it simply, Foie Gras is literally goose or duck liver. The name actually means 'fatty liver' in French. Its origins date all the way back to the ancient Egyptians, who noticed their geese would eat large amounts of food during the winter, which resulted in their livers expanding. The Egyptians soon began eating goose liver, taking it with them as sustenance on their trips down the Nile River. Ancient drawing show Egyptian farmers force-feeding the geese, a pictorial testament of the early origins of foie gras production.
By the first century B.C., the Romans force-fed their geese with figs, which made the Foie Gras richer and extra sweet. Soon, it became a prized delicacy, enjoyed by emperors and noble men. By the middle Ages, however, Foie Gras disappeared from sight. It is believed that the Jews were the only ones who knew of its secret recipe, since it is one of the few types of meat that isn't restricted by their religion.
Eventually Foie Gras returned to the public scene when French chef Jean-Pierre Clause revived the recipe and perfected it into a royal dish. Thus, foie gras went from obscure to renowned throughout Europe, becoming a favorite of artists, including the great writer Alexander Dumas, and Italian composer Rossini. The King of France, Louis XVI, once proclaimed Foie Gras as "The Dish of Kings"
Throughout the 20th century, Foie Gras was most predominantly produced in France, with the exception of a few other European countries. A luxury item once only enjoyed in the most affluent of homes, foie gras became largely unavailable in the 1980s when the American government banned the import of raw poultry foods. This spurred American farmers to take matters into their own hands, and several foie gras farms started appearing in the New York - Hudson Valley area.
Today, there are many options in the domestic market, and also Canada, which are of remarkably superior quality. The introduction of mechanical feeders has also simplified and streamlined the process, making foie gras more available to the general public than ever before. However, most chefs and connoisseurs will agree that there is nothing like the smooth and buttery taste of fine Grade-A foie gras.