Good Food Blog
Keeping it realPosted at 4:40PM, 08 June 2009 by Carol Wilson - Food writer
The French take their food very seriously. I once had lunch with some French colleagues who had a heated two-hour debate about what constitutes an authentic cassoulet!
Almost every traditional food or speciality has an association to protect, promote and preserve its authenticity. There are around 400 confréries gastronomiques (gastronomic brotherhoods) who dress up in colourful ceremonial robes, arrange gastronomic events and fiercely uphold culinary traditions, awarding diplomas and medals to the best producers.
The Confrérie de la Violette vow to uphold the honour of the fragrant flowers
In Toulouse, for instance, the Confrérie de la Violette (Brotherhood of the Violet) dress in splendid dark green formal robes with violet satin collars shaped like flower petals and vow to uphold the honour of the fragrant flowers, which have been cultivated in the region since the 19th century and are used in various sweets, as well as savoury mustards and vinaigrettes.
The Confrérie des Lichonneux de Tarte Tatin was created because its members were fed up with humdrum apple tarts (and tarts made with other fruit) served under the name of Tarte Tatin. Every year the redoubtable confrérie travels throughout France to praise those who preserve the original recipe - and to lambast backsliders.
In the Côtes d'Armor, The Confrérie des Chevaliers de la Coquille Saint-Jacques (the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Scallop) celebrates Coquilles Saint-Jacques with an annual 'Festival of the Shell', which attracts more than 60,000 people.
The Confrérie des Chevaliers du Goûte Boudin are dedicated to conserving the varieties and associated traditions of boudin noir (black pudding) and also sponsor an annual international tasting. Puy lentils are also honoured with parades, songs and medals, while the Brotherhood of Knights of the Olive Tree vow to 'defend the olive tree and the material and spiritual riches it brings, and to practice the virtues it represents'.
My favourite though is the Confrérie de la Fraise du Périgord, (the Brotherhood of the Périgord Strawberry) whose members dress in red velvet robes and green spiked caps to resemble giant strawberries.