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A hearty peasant dish, cassoulet has evolved from a regional specialty of the Middle Ages to a timeless national dish. Born in Occitania in the 14th century, it comes in a variety of recipes, the best known of which is from Castelnaudary. Here's a look back at the origins of this dish, which even appeals to hipsters in New York!

A warlike genesis?

This comfort food is thought to have originated during the 100 Years' War, when the English laid siege to the town of Castelnaudary, and to feed their soldiers, the rationed locals grabbed whatever they could get their hands on to invigorate the combatants. In a large bowl, they simmered bacon, pork, beans and sausages, and, according to legend, the resulting meal gave the soldiers of Chaur enough strength to drive the invaders out of Occitania!
At least, that's what the great cassoulet brotherhood (founded in 1970) maintains, and it's true that the first written mention of the recipe appears in Taillevent's famous "Viandier" in the 14th century. There's no mention of whether the Cassole, the atypical container associated with cassoulet, was already in use, but 7 centuries later we find that the beans have been replaced by haricot beans. As far as meats are concerned, those from the South-West of France, such as confit de canard and saucisse de Toulouse, are still preferred.

Authentic, tasty and convivial

Here are 3 adjectives to describe this dish, which still holds pride of place on French tables of all social classes. From Michelin-starred chefs who like to revisit it, to the elderly who are nostalgic for the flavors of yesteryear, to young people who love local produce, cassoulet (whose etymology is "cassoulo", "little saucepan" in Occitan) appeals to everyone, and is constantly being renewed. Today, there are even vegetarian versions of the creamy concoction.
The recipe also varies from region to region: in Carcassonne, for example, it's cassoulet with goose confit that delights the taste buds of gourmets. But if you'd like to try your hand at preparing cassoulet the old-fashioned way, visit the website of the cassoulet brotherhood, which takes part in a major celebration in its honor every August. Free concerts, gourmet market, flowery Corso (parade of floats and orchestras), storytelling aperitifs...


In a warm atmosphere, thousands of people wearing the blue and white colors of Castelnaudary celebrate the historic dish by tasting it.

Over the course of 5 days, some 40,000 cassoulets are eaten or bought on the spot at each event!

Bon appétit, and to find out more about this gastronomic festival, visit the Castelnaudary Tourism website.

Valérie from Comme des Français