Often disputed to be home of the classic French dish
cassoulet, every year the town of Castelnaudary in Languedoc-Roussillon holds a
festival celebrating the food, reinforcing its claim that it is the true
birthplace of cassoulet. If youre on your French chateau holidays this August
and youre looking to sample some of the local cuisine, this festival is highly
If you have never tasted cassoulet before, it is a rich and
hearty stew consumed mostly during the winter time. Among its main ingredients
are haricot beans, duck confit, pork and garlic sausage. Other ingredients,
such as goose, mutton or Toulouse sausage, may also be added, depending on
which area the dish is prepared in.
The true origins of cassoulet are unknown, with
Castelnaudary and other nearby towns and cities such as Carcassonne all
claiming to be the inventors. It is said to date from the Hundred Years War,
the conflict between England and France in the 14th and 15th
centuries. The most popular legend concerning the origins of cassoulet is that
the residents of Castelnaudary invented the dish in order to help prevent a
famine outbreak while the town was under siege by the British.
Cassoulet is now taken so seriously in Castelnaudary that
not only does the town hold an annual festival in its honour, but there is also
a guild dedicated to it. Members of the Grande Confrerie du Cassoulet de
Castelnaudary can be seen wearing red robes and hats for special gatherings, as
well as singing a hymn in its honour, which is sung in the local Occitan
The Fete du Cassoulet, held this year from August 24-28, is
by far one of the most popular annual events held in Castelnaudary, attracting
more than 60,000 across the five-day festival. Celebrity chef Rick Stein has
also paid a visit to the festival, with his account of the Fete found in his
book French Odyssey.
As well as several opportunities to try the many varieties
of cassoulet, the Fete also holds a host of other activities, such as a
competition for the best cassoulet, a gourmet market, live street music and
concerts and a floral procession.
Hurbain-Palatin, available under Creative Commons
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