France is a moveable feast and we are going to tour the festivals and highlights coming up from now through December and then start the cycle all over again in January. There are more regional dishes, fairs, markets, and festivals than I can track, so if something’s missing, maybe we’ll get it in 2010 or even 2011.
Today, however, let us contemplate cassoulet and the Fete du Cassoulet in the south of France in Castelnaudary, between Toulouse and Carcassonne. The festival runs for a week, from Monday August 24 through the following Sunday. The daily activities include musical shows, farmers’ markets featuring artisanal foods, tango exhibitions, dancing, and a nightly feast – of cassoulet of course. Make reservations at: 04-68-60-03-69
And what, exactly, is cassoulet? It’s a simple recipe: haricots lingots, garlic, salt, and pepper, ham and pork shoulder, confits, sausauges, “couennes”, and lard. This is NOT a a festival for vegetarians or for people worried about fat. One cooks the beans, and, separately, it looks like, the meats, garlic, salted lard, for a couple of hours until the beans are tender. Then, it all goes into the cassole (a regional pottery cooking dish). It’s layered, with beans and then meats and then beans, with the sausages on top. It cooks until there is a crust over all (this is an informal version of the recipe which you can find, in French, on the website.) In other words, go to the website or a Larousse Gastronomique – not Wandering France- for the complete recipe. It should be served very hot.
Castelnaudary is part of the langue d’oc, the original language of southern France. The website has some stories and sections in the old language.
You can get there from Paris to Toulouse, from Carcassone, and even from Barcelona. Castelnaudary has an airport, but the Toulouse airport is larger.
Check it out at:
The website features a beautiful picture of cassoulet, credit to the website photographer who is unnamed:
Even though I haven’t eaten pork in decades, I’m tempted. How about you?