Food can be an essential part of a country’s culture and tradition. It’s something that can bring people together and make communities and bonds stronger. One of the main activities travellers and tourists include on their itineraries is eating out – and eating out in amazing fashion.
I love food – I mean who doesn’t? It keeps us alive 😛 Although I wanted to make more of a conscious effort to trying out cuisine that are local and traditional to the very place I’m visiting. Then talking to you guys about a particular local dish. This will also be the start of a new series of travel posts.
Toulouse was the first place I looked at doing this kind of content as it was the next trip ahead on the travel agenda.
The biggest thing the city had going for it food-wise is Cassoulet, which I gave myself the pleasure of trying on my day trip. Derived from the term cassole, it is among the most popular and celebrated dishes in the Southern half of France. During the 100 year war, it is said to be the food that gave locals the fuel to defend the last remaining villages from the invading British empire.
Anyway, so what else is there to Le Cassoulet? Lets see!
Where and When Was It Originated?
Cassoulet is known to have come from the French region of Languedoc (now Occitanie) in 1355. The very first cassoulet came in the town of Castelnaudary, with the dish then being adopted by other towns in the Languedoc. Some of the towns/cities in that region being Carcassonne and Toulouse of course!
Cassoulet is mashed up together from the remaining food rations the towns had from the destruction caused by the British empire during the 100 year war. Often eaten by the locals themselves, Cassoulet consists mainly of duck, pork and goose meat with slow-cooked bean stew. The cassoulet in Carcassonne includes mutton while the Toulouse take on the dish normally has Toulouse pork sausage. The saussage and pork were absolutely delicious when I had them.
There was often conflict between chefs and cooks about which ingredients were best suited for cassoulet, and still very much is a debate today.
So a summary of the ingredients:
– Duck Meat (Duck Confit)
– Pork Meat (Pork Shoulder)
– Bean Stew
So for anyone looking for some carbs and protein to use for bodybuilding, cassolet is a worthy contender to make it onto a meal plan 😉
Best Sides To Have It With?
Cassoulet is better paired with a fresh loaf of bread and a glass of red wine, which you can never go wrong with most dishes in France.
Best Time Of The Year To Have It?
The best time to have Cassoulet is the winter seasons, namely in the month of January.
Where’s the best places to have it in?
Many say that cassoulet is best made in a home kitchen, a farmer’s to be specific. Therefore having it as a homemade meal in the comforts of your dining or living room would be the best.
Failing that, the most convenient places to have cassoulet are obviously the local restaurant or cafe brasserie,
Which other cities can it be found in?
As mentioned before the classic dish could only be found in Castelnaudary, Carcassonne, much aside from Toulouse back in the day but now is prominently featured in many supermarkets and off-licences in France’s biggest cities.
Since its inception Cassoulet has become something of a national significance.
Chefs and cooks have gone on to create their own take on Cassoulet over the years. As mentioned many of the biggest capitals and towns in France now offer the dish in shops and restaurants.
Because of its popularity and origins Cassoulet now somewhat has a cult meaning. Insitutions and organisations have been formed in its honour. For example a University is named after it and its compulsory for students to promote Cassoulet and its rich history. The Uni’s even gone as far as to having a dedicated theme song.
Every August sees a six-day festival held in Castelnaundry that pays tribute to the popular meal. Known as the “Fête du Cassoulet”, the food festival mainly features live music and shows along with free concerts, often drawing over 60,000 residents.
Big time French chef Prosper Montagne best summed up the importance of Cassoulet to natives by saying:
“Cassoulet is the God of Occitan cuisine. One God in three persons: God the father is the cassoulet of Castelnaudary, God the son is that of Carcassonne, and the Holy Spirit that of Toulouse”.
I think its fair to say that Cassoulet is a must-try not just for its taste and delight but to also get a deeper sense of history and heritage. And if you want a full belly for the evening given how much energy the classic dish contains. To tourists it may not be as known as popular French delicacies like croissants and crepes but it doesn’t make it less special.
Will you be interested in trying out Cassoulet if you were in Toulouse? Have you heard of it before? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments 🙂
Hopefully you all enjoyed this first addition to the new series (am christening it Johnny’s World Food Diary!) More to come in Budapest 😉
Johnny | Johnny’s Traventures