Friday, December 14, 2012

LID: A Fishy Frenchy Dishy Holiday

Bouillabaisse by snowpea & bokchoi

December 14

National Bouillabaisse Day

What in the world is bouillabaisse? I had never heard of it before until I was researching for today's national holiday. According to Webster's Dictionary it is "a highly seasoned fish stew made with at least two kinds of fish." Wikipedia defines bouillabaisse as "traditional Provençal fish stew originating from the port city of Marseille."

Marseille: panoramique by ines saraiva

Marseilles, France

The Old Port of Marseilles was used by the Greeks as a landing area from 620-600BC. Considered the oldest French settlement, Marseilles was founded in 600 BC as a trading port by Greeks from Phocaea. The Greek name for the settlement was Μασσαλία which is translated into the word Massalia. In 545 BC, a second wave of Greek settlers arrived to the newly founded city from Phocaea after the Persians had attacked Phocaea. Massalia's population grew to 1000. Over the years, it prospered as a central port and trading center. Massalia set up eight smaller coastal towns and did well operating new trade centers within those ports. These were: Agde, le Brusc, Antibes, Nice, and Hyères Islands, as well as on the Rhône at Arles and Avignon, and inland at Cavaillon and Glanon (near St.Rémy-de-Provence). Massalia became its own republic and became renowned for the wisdom of their laws and their cultural centers. They may have first encountered the Romans while Massalia was establishing their coastal towns. 

The Romans and Massalia Greeks had a renowned friendship. The Romans even stored their offerings to the Delphi in the Massalia treasury. Massalia had a keen trade interest in Italy and Rome admired Massalia for their constitution. By 500 BC, Massalia had a steady export business. The port thrived as a link between Gaul (hungry for Roman goods and wine) and Romans insatiable hunger for new goods and slaves. The Romans protected Massalia from their enemies as long as Massalia allowed the Romans to use their port. Massalia became an equal ally with Rome. In 154 BC, Roman troops entered the region to defend Massalia against the invading Celtic forces. You can learn more about Massalia history here: and

A Greek Fish Stew....

The origins of the Marsaille bouillabaisse dish derived from fish stew that had once been made in Massalia. Known as Kakavia, it was believed the Roman goddess Venus had feed it to her husband Vulcan. It made Vulcan fall into a deep sleep then Venus went off to have an affair with Mars. 

Here are some traditional Kakavia recipes from Greece

.... Becomes Bouillabaisse

During the 16th, the Marseilles fisherman wives changed the Kakavia recipe by taking the parts of their husbands' catches that weren't worth selling (the bony fish, tinier crustaceans and mollusks) and boiled them over a wood fire in sea water. They added fennel, garlic, and tomatoes (from South America). In the 19th century, Marseilles prospered. Restaurants, eager to serve tourists a local dish, and middle class housewives replaced the sea water for fish stock. They also added a new expensive and exotic spice to the mix known as saffron. The dish was a sensation. It soon became a treat of the upper class in Paris and became known as bouillabaisse. 

Here are some recipes

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