img_0728Liberté. Egalité. Fraternité. The motto of France. And another kind of fraternity–une confrérie–is more like a brotherhood, and in typical French logic, is a feminine noun. They started out being quasi-religious and charitable, but now are mostly based on promoting certain traditions, especially those having to do with gastronomy.

The confréries are a way for French foodies to indulge their gastronomic obsession along with their love of pomp and ceremony, tradition and regulation, seriousness and silliness. You name something to eat or drink and there’s a club devoted to it. They dress up in costumes and attend each other’s festivals. 

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See the little bunch of grapes on the hat?

The ones that really slay me are when they wear a cup around their necks. Be prepared!

There’s the Confrérie Gastronomique des Compagnons du Boudin Noir (the Gastronomic Brotherhood of the Friends of the Black Blood Sausage) and the Confrérie Gastronomique des Compagnons du Haricot de Soissons (the Gastronomic Brotherhood of the Friends of the Soissons Beans). There’s the Confrérie Gastronomique de l’Ordre de l’Echalote de Busnes (the Gastronomic Brotherhood of the Order of the Busnes Shallot) and the Chevaliers de la Poularde (Knights of the Hen). The Carnivore was in fact a member of la Confrérie du Taste-Cerise. Two groups are dedicated to cassoulet: the Academie Universelle du Cassoulet and the Grande Confrérie du Cassoulet. I wrote about the Academie here. And la Confrérie Los Trufaïres de Vilanova de Menerbès (that’s Occitan–the ancient language of this region–for the truffle brotherhood of Villeneuve Minvervois) here.

 

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Banners: la Grande Confrérie du Cassoulet de Castelnaudary, left, and la Mesnie des Chevaliers du Fitou (the house of the Knights of Fitou)

Belonging to a gastronomic brotherhood involves dressing up in medieval costumes and getting together to eat your chosen dish regularly, as well as helping to promote it and preserve its purity and traditions in France and around the world. It’s the Chamber of Commerce, with a big dose of bons vivants. You can see a parade of various groups at the Toques et Clochers festival I wrote about here; toques are the hats worn by chefs, while clochers are church bells. The festival raises money via food and drink to restore a church belfry each year.

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Her hair!

Anyway, French frats came to mind on Saturday, when, while buying locally grown cauliflower at the market, I was distracted by the dulcet tones of horns. How appropriate! Of course, I had to investigate. I didn’t figure the gilets jaunes had brought in a band.

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I love the range of ages of the musicians.
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Also, the guy in the crowd with a chic scarf that matches the ribbon for his medal.

By then, a men’s choir, le Choeur des Hommes des Corbières–a neighboring wine territory–had started singing. I can’t upload videos here, but you can see one on my Instagram. An elderly gentleman, wearing a long apron and a hat, poured little cups of wine for the crowd from a wooden cask hanging around his neck. It was 10 a.m.

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The cask! I love his hat. Also the beret in the top photo, as common as baseball caps here. Without irony.
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A giant wine bottle on a litter. A Melchior? It was about three feet tall.
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The maker of la Tour Boisée wine. I wrote about it here. This is one of the few wines from this small region, Minervois, that’s sold abroad. If you find it, buy it! (Personal recommendation–I get nothing from them!)

It was the feast of Saint Vincent, patron saint of winegrowers. So the national gastronomic club of Prosper Montagné (hometown boy, born in Carcassonne, inventor of the food truck, writer of the original Larousse Gastronomique, which is the bible of French cuisine) organizes a march past Montagné’s childhood home to the Church of St. Vincent (of COURSE a church in the center of Carcassonne is dedicated to St. Vincent!) for a blessing of the wine. Then they paraded through the central Place Carnot and on around the corner to a former church (they were about one per block back in the Middle Ages and now only a couple of bigger ones are still used) that now is a temple to bullfighting, headquarters of the Cercle Taurin. You can see the local TV coverage here.img_0754It was all wrapped up with a gastronomic dinner. Of course.

 

 

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37 thoughts on “French Frats

  1. This was really interesting and gave me a laugh to think about these societies dedicated to preserving and eating certain foods! Can’t imagine that here in Ireland though perhaps I just haven’t gotten out enough 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Carcassonne looks like such a spirited town full of unique and fun loving people!
    My wife and I will be in Carcassonne in February and are looking for an English speaking real estate agent to look for a property to purchase. Does anyone have a real estate agent contact they might share?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello,
        We are looking for an elegant, bourgeois style apartment with high quality finishes, moldings, plaster work, working fire places and parquet flooring. I understand that
        the Bastide St. Louis in Carcassonne is a nice area. We currently have limited French speaking skills but are going to learn french. In your opinion is Carcassonne a good place for expats?
        Thank you,
        Brian & Christi

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think so, though I have to say I don’t know any. I’m all-in on French life. But I hear plenty of English and I think there are some clubs for expats. You should stay in one of our apartments. Sounds like just what you want. A working fireplace isn’t possible–not allowed in the city center for pollution reasons.

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  3. These associations are one of the most authentic things about France. Small things matter, tradition matters, food and wine matter. When I lived in the Herault there were similar groups, I think there was one for just about every food and wine that exist there. I’m sure there’s one for the black turnips of Pardailhan (between Saint Chinian and Saint Pons) …. which I have never tried, not being a fan of turnips regardless of their color.
    bonnie in provence

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Did you join in with the meal? It would be wonderful if more people here respected their food as much as the French do. It always seems so celebratory with much laughter. Maybe it’s the good wine….
    Ali

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, St. Vincent’s is Jan. 22, and the dinner is the nearest Saturday. The tuffle dinner is in early February, always done by a Michelin-star chef. Usually the tourism office has a list of events–look for the one in the city or region you’ll be visiting.

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  5. Do you have to be a French citizen to belong to one of these associations? It looks like such fun, and would be a great way for expats to get to know French people. Very enjoyable and informative post–thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, you don’t have to be a French citizen but you usually have to be invited to join. They want members who are going to work to promote whatever the delicacy is. OTOH, anybody can go to the dinners! The truffle dinner usually raises money for cystic fibrosis. You get to eat great food and do something for a good cause.

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      1. Thanks for the info! A few years ago, we saw a bunch of people in Selestat(Alsace)heading for a park with plastic wine cups on neck lanyards. Perhaps it was one of those groups’ fundraisers. I remember the 4 course dinner was only about 15 euros. Probably not going to find that here in the States!

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  6. Oh yes, la fete du Saint-Vincent – it’s a wonderful tradition!! Several years ago, the winegrowers used to organise a “fete tournant” on that day, a party held in a different village of the AOC each year. Unfortunately it fizzled out, lack of interest on the part of the organizers, or too much work? The fraternities are fun though, I love the ones whose cloaks look as though they could upholster sofas and easy chairs! 🙂
    A tip with regard to the videos: I upload mine to youtube and then place a link in the post. It brings up the video window in the post.

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      1. Nah, I’m not going to join. I suspect I couldn’t keep a straight face through some of it, which might not go down well. I am planning to make the tart though. Just bought some apricot and peach jam in Noz that should be ideal.

        I’m so glad you like the blog. I’ve started following you on Instagram via our business account (Tour the Loire). And likewise, I really like your blog. You’ve got such a good feel for life here and such a nice way of expressing it.

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  7. So charming and so very different from here in the States. I’m in San Antonio and because 55% of the population is Hispanic… and we have the Alamo… our celebrations revolve around the battles between Mexico and the early Texans. Every spring for 10 days we celebrate Fiesta, with two river parades, a night parade, the Battle of Flowers parade, the coronation of the Queen and her court and the King…. I could go on and on but it’s really an excuse to party and eat, mostly Mexican food. For 11 years I played a role as Mistress of Ceremonies of a big stage event that’s held for three nights and sells out in a matter of minutes! So much fun!

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    1. Sounds like heaven. My first job was at a Mexican restaurant. I actually have dreams about Mexican food. And do you know what Cinco de Mayo is? A celebration of Mexico’s victory over Napoleon’s forces! A French connection!

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  8. This was such a fun post!!! A little escape. Still smiling. Our friends in Tampa, Florida were celebrating as pirates yesterday. Crazy party. We all have something in common.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. OMG – here on Cape Cod we have our turnip association and festival. I would never have thought about the traditions had you not told us about your French groups. (Massachusetts, USA)

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