The History of Foie Gras

Foie Gras is the enhanced liver of a duck or goose. A delicacy in the U.S., foie gras has a sweet, rich taste you definitely want to experience. It is only produced by a few farms around the U.S., but much more abroad. Let’s take a look at where foie gras has its roots.

Foie Gras Begins in Egypt

As you might expect, spectacular Egypt was the birthplace of foie gras. Ancient Egyptians happened upon the delicacy quite by accident. In hunting migratory geese, they noticed the livers tasted much more rich and flavorful than their nonmigratory brothers. This small detail lies in the migratory eating patterns. While gorging usually has a negative connotation, with foie gras it’s the secret sauce! Geese preparing for migration gorged themselves to have reserves for the long travel. This produces activity in the liver resulting in that sweet, buttery taste unique to the dish. Their livers returned to their normal state after migration and so the pre-migratory eating behavior was the key.

Once Ancient Egypt discovered foie gras they couldn’t get enough. They hunted and domesticated migratory geese. Geese were integrated into their myths alongside Geb, their god of geese and the god Amon. Tomb paintings also included depictions of geese being force fed, which they knew as an act of preparing the liver for eating.

Foie Gras Travels to Greece

Foie gras then spread from Egypt to Greece. In Greece, geese and duck were fed with water-soaked wheat as a manner of gorging. In fact, Homer mentions this in the Odyssey.

When in Rome

In Rome, a very important discovery was made with foie gras. For the first time, Romans fed the foul fruit, which they found heightened the flavor of the liver. This is where culinary historians believe foie gras began as an intentional farm practice.  The Romans raised geese and duck for use of the liver, calling it iecur ficatum, which means “fig-stuffed liver.”

France Introduces Foie Gras to the World

France is credited with bringing foie gras to fine dining across the globe. It is the French that introduced corn, which had recently become available in France, to the feeding process. This resulted in yet another dimension to the dish. Another important development by the French was a means of preserving and sterilizing the dish. Once this process was locked down, foie gras become available to the world! The French are the largest producers of foie gras today and it came to them by way of the Jews who fattened goose and duck to use for foie gras and cooking fat.  By the 1500s, foie gras was accepted across Europe.

For our country, foie gras is now available as fresh and domestically-raised. But for years it was only available in a canned version. Today In the U.S. it is not likely you’ll sit at a fine French restaurant without foie gras on the menu.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this culinary history lesson and be sure to include foie gras in your next dining experience! Next time you’re at NoJa, be sure to try our take on foie gras, featuring a pan-roasted duck foie gras atop a fresh crostini and drizzled with a seasonal fruit jam and balsamic reduction! We also have lovely wines and desserts to perfectly compliment your meal.

It’s Noja’s attention to detail and our focus on farm-fresh ingredients that has allowed us to continue to serve this area for so long. For an intimate meal in one of the Port City’s longest-running restaurants in Downtown Mobile, make a reservation to Noja. We have both indoor and outdoor seating in a secluded area, just steps from Dauphin Street in LODA at 6 N. Jackson Street. To reserve a table now, call 251-433-0377. Learn more about our cuisine and offerings at or on our Facebook page.

Noja is a Mediterranean-Asian restaurant in the heart of downtown Mobile with an ever-evolving menu. Call us at 251-433-0377 to make a reservation today then visit at 6 N. Jackson St.; Mobile.

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