No liver complaint-The Saga of Foie-gras

Proudly plodding along, chest protruding, it is picking through the grass  with its squad in tow, leaving nothing to chance. This is not, however, the garden maintenance team. This is a duck from my native land, Burgundy, happily frolicking  on the farm, unaware of its destiny as an incarnation of French gastronomy. Firmly planted on its two flipper feet for now, it will leave the farm in an array of glass jars in a few weeks. So much for unabashed bottom-wiggling.

Nested in a pretty village near Dijon, Maud and Samuel’s farm produces foie gras and duck specialties. From the field straight into your plate, this is as fresh as it gets.  On the farm shop you can buy duck meat and foie in season (May to September ) or terrines and jars. Get ready to enjoy! Now here is a special note for the ladies, at the risk of ruffling a few feathers: I must warn you that these cackling, short-legged creatures will lead you to ecstasy much more surely than any lover ever will. And the pleasure derived will be anything but volatile. Some of it may even linger around your waist.

Now we are talking « mi-cuit » foie gras,  plain or with Burgundy truffles ; duck terrine flavoured with  Pineau des Charentes, similar to ice wine… duck rillettes, a pulled-meat terrine, with hazelnuts or green pepper ;  next comes duck confit, duck legs slowly cooked in its fat, anything but lame….. and gizzards… for the boldest. These home-made recipes (« fait maison ») are a delight for local customers who flock to the farm, especially before the holiday season, a favourite time for gourmets.

Now, you may rightfully ask, does this mean you can pick your duck in the field and wait, in eager anticipation, for it to be prepped up for your tastebuds? I see the weak shudder at the thought and the hearty eaters wondering whether feeding the bird their favorite stuffing, rosemary and onion, port and garlic, marshmallow and peanut butter….is feasible…. It is not. Neither is Leg Retention. Once simmering in the pot, it is impossible to identify the brave owner of a leg, liver, or gizzard. This is a major difference with your man, ladies, whose alcohol-imbibed liver can easily be recognized.

Liver fattening is a natural process in the lifecycle of a duck. The bird needs to store fat for the cold season when food is not so plentiful. Any similarity to someone you  know is purely coincidental. On Maud and Samuel’s farm, fattening is conducted with corn grain exclusively. The ducks, of the « mulard » type, gallivant about on the farm for 12 weeks. They are fed cereals once a day, to prepare for fattening.  For ducks are  binge-eaters that no shrink can rescue.  They inflate, they gorge, they grow desirable. Big is beautiful in France, but only if you are destined for a flash in the pan. In the last two weeks of its brief, glorious life, our duck will star in a remake of Super Size Me. It will be force-fed twice a day. A few seconds for  our lasting enjoyment. This process  will ensure enough fat  moistens the liver, legs and all the juicy bits. Love me tender, my duck. Love me true.

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