One of the most popular series of comics in Europe, “The Adventures of Asterix”, illustrating escapades of a shorty Asterix and his fat fellow Obelix, invented by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, devotes proper place to portraying Gallic village feasts. Indeed, nothing has really changed since the Roman conquest of the country.
The beginning of a season, harvesting, saints’ days and other significant dates are celebrated in a broad and jolly fashion in our region. I have already participated several times in outdoor dining, where a rich meal is accompanied by equally abundant libations featuring local wines and pastis (I think, it would be appropriate to compare this beverage with the potion brewed by the gray-bearded druid that gives magical power to the one who’s drunk it). Common fun would be incomplete without an entertainment program, as you might guess, gaining momentum just in time for dessert, and allowing extra calories to be shaken off on the dance floor.
La Fête de la Bouillabaisse celebrated in our region in May became one of the merriest and most flavourful holidays for me so far.
If you think that it’s just a simple fish soup, which you could easily and elegantly prepare for your guests to treat them with a local delicacy, I will hasten to disabuse you of this deplorable delusion. Almost a dozen species of fish are stewed during long hours, earning the right to be called bouillabaisse from Marseille (hence – the cost of the dish in restaurants, reaching up to 80 Euros per serving, and a frequent demand to pre-order it when booking a table).
Scorpion fish (rascasse), weever (vive), John Dory (saint-pierre), conger (congre), gilt-head bream (daurade), merling (merlan), monkfish (lotte de mer), sea robin (grondin) are the main characters of this gastronomic performance, which Michelin star chefs tend to enrich with crustaceans, but the purists refuse to admit such a variant. Mind you, not a trace of salmon! The broth saturated by the fish succus can be flavoured with white wine, and certainly seasoned with garlic, olive oil and saffron.
And now imagine, – about 300 people would gather for the party, and each of them could reckon on a copious portion of this aromatic soup, which goes so perfectly well with croutons and a garlic rouille sauce, and a hearty share of the fish, obviously. You’re asked to bring your own plates, by the way, but so much the better.
The legend has it, still Aphrodite rejoiced her husband Hephaestus with a bouillabaisse, causing him to fall into an afternoon nap, so that she could go naughty with Ares. Marseille, I’d like to remind you, was founded by the Greeks, but the Romans, coming several centuries later, maintained the myth by transferring the proposed circumstances to Venus-Vulcan-Mars love triangle.
Observing the local enthusiasts of bouillabaisse I dare say that they are not inclined to divine weaknesses: after a generous aperitif with strong drinks, having properly treated the Marseillian speciality together with regional wines and dealt with dessert, they launched themselves into dancing and into numerous contests, including some quite zesty ones, arranged by the girls in cancan gowns.
All these riotous feasts are organized by the volunteers from the associations and public committees, which I have already mentioned in Friends of our friends, and I will certainly mention on. In our case, the village committee was originally intended to raise funds for the construction of a small chapel. The chapel is already there for several years now, but the committee doesn’t cease its activity by addressing the proceeds from each feast to various charities.
Read in Russian: Праздник буйабеса