Home Today Is Bouillabaisse (Fish Soup) Was Coined Before The 17th Century

Bouillabaisse (Fish Soup) Was Coined Before The 17th Century

Bouillabaisse day

Seafood lovers everywhere have reason to celebrate every December 14th with National Bouillabaisse Day.

The French are known for many a great recipe. Their food inspires travel to France for a taste of the authentic. Bouillabaisse is on the list of must-have cuisine. Originating in the port city of Marseille, Bouillabaisse is a fish stew. Traditionally it is made using the bony rockfish, saffron, fennel seed and orange zest.

There are strong opinions in the culinary world about the proper ingredients for an authentic bouillabaisse. From the fish (typically red rascasse, sea robin and European conger) to the wine (red or white), it is hotly debated. Even its origins are argued. Was the stew the creation of a Greek goddess or simply a stew thrown together by coastal fisherman using the bony rockfish which they were unable to sell to restaurants or markets?

Regardless, using a variety of fresh fish is the first step to a delicious bouillabaisse, especially if you can’t get to the south of France to order it made for you.

Although the origins of Bouillabaisse Day don’t seem to be pinned down at the moment, the dish that it honors has been around for generations. When it first came about, it was being made by fishermen in Marseilles who would use rockfish to help make a tasty soupy dish. Rockfish, and other fish like it, were used because they were often too bony for the fishermen to be able to sell to markets or restaurants – and as the saying goes, waste not, want not. Because of this, bouillabaisse is a meal that you might have to eat while being careful to pull bones out as you go along, depending on how authentic and traditional the chef is being.

Bouillabaisse was first coined before the 17th century, but a soup very similar to the one we now know was recorded as being made back in 600BC, when the Ancient Greeks who founded Marseilles ate a fish stew simply made from ingredients around the region.

  • Something similar to Bouillabaisse also appears in Roman mythology: it is the soup that Venus fed to Vulcan.
  • According to Curnonsky, (AKA the Prince of Gastronomy) there is a legend that bouillabaisse was first brought by angels to the Three Marys of the Gospel, when they were shipwrecked in the marshes between the two branches of the Rhone River near Arles.
  • The dish known today as bouillabaisse was created by Marseille fishermen who wanted to make a meal when they returned to port. Rather than using the more expensive fish, they cooked the common rockfish and shellfish that they pulled up with their nets and lines, usually fish that were too bony to serve in restaurants, cooking them in a cauldron of sea water on a wood fire and seasoning them with garlic and fennel. Tomatoes were added to the recipe in the 17th century, after their introduction from America.


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