Festival of Cassoulet in Castelnaudary Remembers Hundred Years War

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The fourteenth festival of cassoulet begins in Castelnaudary, the birthplace of the famous dish, on 21st August. A wide range of gastronomical themed activities are available, of which the most important is the tasting of the many varieties of cassoulet which have developed since its origins during the Hundred Years War. A presentation and history of this festival and of cassoulet by FranceBedAndBreakfasts.com.

Castelnaudary is generally considered as the birthplace of cassoulet, where it was first prepared during the Hundred Years War.

The fourteenth festival of Cassoulet begins on the 21st August in the town of Castelnaudary in southwest France. The festival aims to create an authentic atmosphere of southwest France, and in particular the region of Languedoc, with food, music and cultural events, all deriving from the local area.

Castelnaudary is generally considered as the birthplace of cassoulet, where it was first prepared during the Hundred Years War. According to the legend, England's Black Prince, son of Henry III, was besieging the town and the populace were on the point of starving. They decided to put all their remaining reserves together and cook them in a large pot called a "cassole". The result - a hearty combination of meat, pork skin and white beans, all cooked in goose fat - was served out to the populace, who decided to name it cassoulet, after the pot. Reinvigorated by this filling meal, and no doubt fearful that the English army would try to steal what remained of it, the population attacked the besiegers and chased them out of southwest France.

This somewhat haphazard approach to preparing a meal has informed its development down through the years and in the different towns where it has flourished. Until recently, it was considered to be a peasant's meal, basically a mixture of leftovers. Obviously what people had left over from previous meals varied time to time and from place to place. Therefore, whereas the first cassoulets were prepared using feva beans, the arrival of white beans (haricots blancs) from America led to these becoming the staple ingredient for the dish. The cassoulet recipes from Toulouse, Carcassonne and Castelnaudary are quite different from each other, reflecting the different foods which each town produced. The manner of preparation varies too, ranging from very straightforward recipes in line with the lowly origins of the dish to complicated haute cuisine varieties, which some purists criticise as being contrary to the rough and ready peasant spirit of cassoulet preparation.

This year's festival runs from the 21st to the 25th of August. With an eclectic programme of music on offer at 24 free concerts, a race of UFOs (unidentified floating objects) on the canal and a gastronomical themed parade, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Cassoulet lovers will not waste their time with such frivolities, however, instead benefiting from the range of different cassoulets on offer for tasting and sale at stalls and restaurants throughout the town. One of the more popular of the region's late summer festivals, it is estimated that 40000 cassoulets will be served to 80000 visitors in 2013. The French school holidays being near their end at this time, the hotels and the bed and breakfasts of the region will typically have places available for festival goers. English visitors not intending to besiege the town are also welcome.

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