My article on bouillabaisse, published in France Magazine
From Humble Fish Soup to Emblematic Dish
There’s no arguing that bouillabaisse is Marseille’s most emblematic dish. In fact, it’s the first specialty food lovers are eager to sample when they visit the cosmopolitan port city. With a history that goes back to the 7th century, the richly filled soup has evolved from poor fisherman’s fare to one of the most sophisticated classics of French cuisine. Today, you can expect to pay upwards of €50 for a properly prepared bouillabaisse.
But what exactly is a proper bouillabaisse? Perhaps it’s best to start with the provenance of the dish. It is believed that the Ancient Greeks who founded Massalia (Marseille’s ancient name) around 600 BC were already enjoying a similar fish soup. Originally made by fishermen with the day’s catch and whatever vegetables they had on hand (usually onions and potatoes), the humble soup was named ‘kakavia’ after the earthenware pot (kakavi) in which it was cooked. Only the smallest and least attractive fish were used as the best were reserved for sale at the market.