Catherine Bussiere: Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse: a traditional Provencal fish stew originating from the port city of Marseille.

I can’t say how long I’ve wanted to eat bouillabaisse
growing up I read Marcel Pagnol, a god amongst Provencal literature
his series: Marius, Fanny, Cesar take place in the heart of Marseille where Cesar, a lively choleric character, runs a bar
the world of Pagnol is a world like any: family, friends, love, foes, food, drinks
it is lively, it is flavorful, the language sings
it is french from the south, from the sea, with accent, punctuation, words like no others
The bouillabaisse is a classic dish from this part of the world
as it requires specific fish and spices one can really only eat the “real thing” here

Friday night we were invited to a party of ten at “la table D’eux” restaurant to eat the famous soup
and I was excited
as we walked into the restaurant I was taken aside right away to the kitchen to see a basin filled with odd looking fish covered with garlic, saffron and who knows what

Our host have been fantastic
we help out all week
we’ve mostly been cleaning up the olive grove; mowing, chopping, making it nice
we get a lovely place to stay, the best grocery, (I have a tab at the boucherie where I’ve been trying all sorts of local specialties)
and on Friday we go out

Now we could just go out and eat but Geraldine (she likes to be called Gerry but Geraldine is so pretty and she does look a little bit like Geraldine Chaplin) goes above and beyond
She knows we are curious so she makes sure to introduce us to the locals
She arranged a couple tours to local olive mills
Took us out to try the Beaujolais nouveau

In the kitchen of the restaurant the mother of the cook explains to me how the soup is made
the various fish have been sitting in a wonderful mixture of spices for hours
The broth is made
veggies are cooked
one by one, depending on their size, the fish will be added at the last minute so they cook to perfection

in the restaurant the table is set
as we wait we are treated to a few rounds of sparkling wine to celebrate Isaac and Haley’s engagement
the traditional plate of charcuterie sits on the counter
someone tells me to try this and that
I try everything

We are now ready to hit the table
Bouillabaisse has a special order of thing
first the broth is served pipping hot topped with rouille spread on croutons
rouille is like a spicy homemade mayonnaise with garlic and saffron

The broth is heavenly
rich, flavorful
the crouton soak just enough of the broth for an easy chew
the rouille tops it all
I am in heaven

Then comes two huge platters of fish
it has all those crazy fish I saw earlier in the kitchen plus mini crabs, mussels and squid
I try everything
Next you place any of the fish you want in your plate
grab a few potatoes if you wish and cover that with the broth that has been kept hot

we all go for several rounds
wine keeps filling our glasses
our bellies are getting fuller and fuller
there is so mush fish to be eaten

several hours later
that’s the way it goes here
a proper meal takes hours
the fish is gone and we are served an expresso followed by a few shots of Lemoncello
jolly and filled to the rim we exit the restaurant with kisses on the cheek to the cook, his mom, the waitress

another meal in Provence gone by
I am looking forward to next Friday
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2 thoughts on “Catherine Bussiere: Bouillabaisse

  1. I am in awe of your trip to Europe. Writing and photographs leave nothing to the imagination, reads like a best seller. One can hardly wait for the next installment.Thank you.

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