Ann Mah reports in the New York Times travel section.
“To understand French cuisine, I realized I had to visit the regions and meet the country chefs, farmers and home cooks who proudly preserve tradition. Last summer, I embarked on a tour of France through five of its signature dishes, a decadent journey that convinced me that the best, most honest food in France is found in the provinces.”
“In the Mediterranean fishing village of Cassis, I rose early and strolled along the port, watched local chefs and fishermen haggle over the morning catch and dined on the resulting bouillabaisse a few hours later. In the Languedoc, I visited a duck farm and witnessed the late-afternoon gavage — the controversial force-feeding that enlarges the liver — before joining a farmer for a glass of rough wine and a few slices of baguette spread with pâté de foie gras de canard.”
Lyon: Quenelle de Brochet
Perched at an epicurean crossroads, Lyon, in the southeastern Rhône-Alpes region, has long rejoiced in the bounty of its surroundings: Provençal produce, Alpine butter and cheese, Bresse poultry, Beaujolais wine and Massif Central beef. But it was the Mères Lyonnaises who officially sealed the city’s culinary reputation. ”
Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées: Cassoulet
The territory once known as the Languedoc, in the southwest, is a sun-warmed expanse where medieval villages rise in the distance and grapevines sprawl across low hills. (After the French Revolution, the region was divided into administrative départements, and its ancient capital, Toulouse, became part of the Midi-Pyrénées.) The cuisine, rustic and slow-simmered, matches this bucolic landscape, with dishes like duck confit or the region’s renowned cassoulet washed down with robust local wine.
“Perhaps no French dish has achieved greater mythical status than cassoulet, a hearty concoction of sausages, confit (typically duck), pork and white beans, cooked for hours. According to local legend, the dish was invented in the town of Castelnaudary — the self-proclaimed “capital of cassoulet” — during the Hundred Years’ War. Trapped by the English, the starving villagers pooled their last scraps of meat and beans, simmering everything in a giant caldron; after feasting on the ragout, the French soldiers regained their strength and rallied to chase the English all the way to the Channel.”
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