In Defense of Foie Gras*

17 04 2010

I am not here to apologize for foie gras. I am not here to defend the fact that I find the fatty duck or goose liver delicious in its myriad forms of presentation. I am here because I think it is been demonized. For the full discourse I suggest you read Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient by Jennifer McLagan (excellent book). Like the self assured incredibly attractive woman who is labeled a Bitch because she is simply a self assured incredibly attractive woman, foie gras is the victim of its own provocative tastiness. As Jack Webb used to preach, let us examine the facts, just the facts.

  • Foie gras is natural fat. What do I mean by “natural fat”? I mean that it does not contain things like trans-fats (TFA). Many people are unaware that trans-fats are a class of compounds principally created by man primarily to unnaturally extend the shelf life of fat containing products (pure natural TFAs exist only in trace amounts in meat and dairy mostly as vaccenyl acid). While TFAs are unsaturated fats, they are associated with increases in LDLs (“bad cholesterol”) and lowering of HDLs (“good cholesterol”) and they are most definitely not essential. Nature put an expiration date on things for a reason.
  • Some fat is necessary. Want to know why old people look old? In addition to the breakdown of elastin and collagen as we age we thin and lose the layer of subcutaneous fat under our skin. That little layer of fat keeps us looking young. More importantly, fat is used as:
    • An energy source
    • A transport for fat-soluble necessary vitamins such as A,D, E and K
    • a source of raw materials that are used in maintaining normal healthy cellular function.
  • Food cooked in natural fat-taste it, ‘nuff said.
  • Foie gras has been around since around at least around 3000BC in ancient Egypt. The geese there naturally fatten their livers in preparation for their annual migratory journey.
  • In the original “French Paradox” study (Dr. Serge Renaud, 1991) the area within France with the lowest cardiovascular mortality and highest life expectancy was Toulouse in the Gascony region. In Toulouse they consume insane amounts of foie gras several times a week. In the U.S. the rate of death for middle aged men from heart attack is 315/100,000, in France 145/100,000, in Toulouse it is 80/100,000.
  • Roughly 65% of foie gras is unsaturated oleic acid, the same oil that constitutes 60-80% of olive oil. It also contains omega 3 and 6 essential acids. To quote Dr. Renaud, “Goose and duck fat is closer in chemical composition to olive oil than it is to butter or lard.”
  • A native of Gascony, Robert Jacquerez, who lived into his late 90’s remarked that balance is the key. “Always have a salad with your cassoulet, bread with your foie gras,” he said. “Always drink as much mineral water as wine.”
  • Treat foie gras for what it is; a rare and delicious delicacy to be savored.

So don’t be a Foie Hater just because she is beautiful and tasty. Give her a chance, and with all due apology to John Lennon:

Ev’rybody’s talkin’ ’bout
Food Revolution,  Food Evolution, Mastication, Dietary Flagellation, FDA Regulation,
Integrations, medications, Food Nations, vegetations
All we are saying is give foie a chance
All we are saying is give foie a chance.

*Whenever using an ingredient like foie gras, it is extremely important to procure reliable, high quality product. In the upcoming recipes we received an outstanding duck foie gras  from BlackStar Gourmet that met these stringent standards. I highly recommend their products.




4 responses

17 04 2010

You have changed your site! I had to adjust my eyes…but loving the deconstruction of this meal, meaning backwards from finish to start!

18 04 2010

Unfortunately I sometimes wind up doing things Bass Ackwards

20 04 2010

Thanks for the referral; I would not have known where to get it; I had oodles of foie gras at my cousin’s Isabelle for Christmas lunch in Beirut and figured I better eat tons since I would not be able to get it in the US. Glad that is not the case!

20 04 2010

You’re more than welcome. Get your brother to buy you some!

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