It comes from a, supposedly, free range bird, whose only function in life appears to be organ donation.
And whatever your politics with regard to the method of production, fois gras is one luxury food that definitely deserves that over used adjective, decadent.
Velvety soft. Indescribably delicious. No vitamins. No minerals. More fat than a container carload of butter, and a price tag with way too many zeros, foie fras spread on warm toast is meant to be accompanied by a sweet wine of the Sauternes variety.
The south west of France is foie gras central with 'buy it from the farmer' signs on every other tree.
The other delicacy of that region, is Armagnac, which stands alongside the older and higher octane Bas Armagnac. These forty percent plus after dinner digestifs are souped up versions of Cognac.
Distilled twice, rather than once, Armagnac production generally remains rooted in the ancient tradition of the still that travels from farm to farm.
Both are bland culinary lightweights whose minimal flavour is highly dependant on secret sauces, herbs and wine.
Equally, if not more bland, is an item to be found on every bistro menu.
The Croque Monsieur featuring melted cheese on toast usually with a slice of (you guessed it) ham in the middle.
In a country where alcohol consumption is not merely a historical tradition, but a sacred duty, it’s tempting to stereotype the French as Europe’s alcoholics. And, indeed, this is exactly what the French government does each time it’s about to raise booze prices.
So are the French Europe’s heaviest drinkers? The answer is both relative and subjective. Relative to whether you’ve been in a bar in Scotland at 10am and subject to your personal experience with the escargot-quaffing pig lovers.
My own experience highlights how wine is generally enjoyed at every meal except breakfast and lunch during the week, when mineral water stands in for the grape.
This is la vie quotedien with meals that are nothing fancy such as steak hache, pasta, scrambled eggs, salad and yoghurt. But enough of boring everyday life!
Let us, dear reader, advance to special occasions and find out just how and to what extent our Latin cousins enjoy putting on the Ritz.
For marriages, graduations, anniversaries (which is what they call birthdays) and that most special of special occasions, the weekend, you will begin bien sur with aperitifs.
The first course, usually seafood, will arrive with white wine. Again a two glass minimum if you want a return invite.
Next the meat dish. This is where the goin’ gets tough. Because after four glasses you are moderately tipsy and now your host is going to simultaneously BBQ your brain and sauté your liver by rolling out his favourite special occasion red.
Assaultive is the appropriate adjective here. Two glasses are not an option. But no worries. Because, at this point, you will feel that you can handle that third glass. And, maybe, you can.
Maybe you can nurse it, waiting for the cheese to arrive. Maybe you can raise your glass, feigning a deep eyes-wide-closed sniff of appreciation, as your host attempts a refill.
And, maybe you can keep the cream-soaked dessert that follows where it belongs. And, maybe the after dessert coffee will help you regain partial control of your limbs. I hope so because you’re about to meet The Terminator.
The French, like most of us, love to do harmless, illegal stuff. In San Francisco, we cross against the lights, in France, the illegal thing they like to do most is whip up a little concoction called Eau D’vie.
However I hasten to add, there is precious little water in the 'water of life', it is a fruit alcohol (the Mirabel plum being the most common) that starts at around forty percent, then goes up into the alcoholic stratosphere, depending on how long it 'sleeps' and how it was made.
The usual method, understandably, is to taste it, as you make it. However, I have a French pal whose Mother makes it by colour alone.
So her moonshine can be anywhere from forty to sixty per cent proof and remember Mother knows best.
Certainly, making it is harmless drinking it is another enchilada. There are two ways.
Straight up in a shot glass or pour it in the dregs of your coffee. What’s it like? Well, imagine your nose hairs BBQ by an alcoholic blowtorch, while your vision is temporarily suspended.
The bottom line. If after all this celebrating you can: a) speak in complete sentences, b) not drool during the goodbye kisses and c) walk unassisted to your car, you will have made the 'A List' of special occasion regulars.
Other articles by Christopher:
Tales from the bicycling gourmet's table
Cycling around the treasures of France
Baby steps towards a French baptism
Taking a tour of Chateau la Verrerie
The Pope of biodynamic wine
US-born video film maker Christopher Strong produced the Bicycle Gourmet's Treasures of France tour, which fulfilled his dream of cycling around the country visiting interesting places and meeting entertaining characters.
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