Living here in the Dordogne, it is difficult to avoid Foie Gras. It turns up in the most unlikely places – stuffed into a joint of roast Reindeer is one I particularly remember….
I don’t have any moral objection to Fois Gras, and am constantly annoyed by the lentil munching ex-pats who stand outside our local supermarket on a Saturday morning in their hand knitted Peruvian sweaters and ecologically correct ‘recycled tyre’ sandals, plaintively asking for signatures on their latest petition against the production of Foie Gras in this, their host country. If it is not the Foie Gras they are objecting to, it is the excellent Veal. The Veal I eat and enjoy, Foie Gras I just don’t happen to like.
It is difficult for English people to understand the depth of knowledge that the French display in their food. It is not food to them, it is a religion. Although the average ‘income’ of each household is around €12,000 you will still find bottles of wine in the local ‘corner shop’ selling for upwards of €50 – perhaps only bought once a year, but once a year there will be a special meal that demands a special wine, and they will dig deep in their pocket to pay for it.
If you go for dinner in a French household where the tradition is that other guests bring food or wine, then you can be sure that someone will have brought Foie Gras that has been home cooked mi-cuit, and there will follow an earnest discussion as to exactly the method which was used, which alcohol it was marinaded in first, how many verses of the Marseillaise the cook sang as she timed it to the precise second….with so much care going into the cooking, you can be sure that any suggestion that the Goose which gave its liver for this feast had been treated with anything other than total reverence during its life time, would have the French cooks recoiling in horror.
Yet the myth continues that because there are such things as Foie Gras farms, where local farmers earn their living producing more than one of these prize delicacies at a time, you can equate the production methods with something approximating the Turkey Twizzler factories of Olde Englande – a land where it is assumed that so long as the plastic packaging says Turkey, you can guzzle it down and believe that all Turkeys are equal…
Other immigrants to this land of fine cuisine are more discriminating, particularly those who adhere to the Muslim faith. Muslims are taught through the Qu’ran that all animals should be treated with respect, mercy and kindness and well cared for. You might imagine therefore, that the dastardly Foie Gras, favoured target for the animal rights activists, might be on the list of Haram or forbidden foods. Not so!
Sales of halal foie gras have increased ten-fold in the last two years, delighting supermarket chains across France.
According to Antoine Sfeir, the Lebanese-born founder of the newspaper, Cahiers de l’Orient, the reason behind the boom in halal French delicacies is easy to explain: “First generation Muslims were traditionalists while the second generation were too busy working,” he says. “They just didn’t have the means, with seven or eight kids, to buy foie gras.”
Halal foie gras isn’t cheap. It costs more than standard foie gras – about 15 euros – but that’s because each tin has to receive a certificate of authentication from a mosque, stating that the meat conforms to halal practices. But, says Sfeir, the current generation of French Muslims “feel they should make more of an effort to integrate.”
In order for a product to receive that precious certificate stating that it fully conforms to Halal practices, a great deal of research goes into every area of the food production.
If only the English would carry out such research themselves into their food, rather than spend their Saturday mornings demonstrating on the basis of something they ‘have read somewhere’.
Veal Blanquette for dinner tonight, just the thing in this uncharacteristically cold week – we seem to be getting the tail end of the English weather…..