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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Soissons - Soissons. Soissons the town and the Soissons the Bean. The Haricot de Soissons on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
The Haricot de Soissons

The Haricot de Soissons is one of France’s largest dried white beans and very popular. When this bean is included in a dish, then its name will be on the menu.  In restaurants in and around the town of Soissons, the local organization promoting this bean is the Confrérie du Haricot de Soissons. The men and women members of the confrerie and will visit all the local restaurants and make sure that cheap imports are not on the menu.  (The members of the Confrérie du Haricot de Soissons are also very involved in promoting the local language called Picard so the younger generations will not lose the writings and history of the area. Picard is an early forerunner of modern French.).

Haricot de Soissons on French Menus:

Cassoulet au Confit de Canard et Haricots de Soissons – A slowly cooked stew of duck confit prepared with the large dried white beans from Soissons.  This cassoulet is one of the few that does not come from the south of France.

Civet de Chevreuil aux Haricots de Soissons et Petits Légumes - A civet, a traditional French stew, here made with roe deer and the Soisson’s beans and young vegetables.
Pintadeau Sauce au Vin Blanc et Haricots de Soissons.
Guinea fowl with a white wine sauce and the beans of Soissons.

Haricot de Soissons qui Accompagne des Jarretons de Porc  – Slowly cooked, probably braised, pork shanks cut across the bone and cooked with the white beans of Soissons.
Haricots de Soissons Mijotés, Saucisses au Piment d’Espelette -
The beans from Soissons slowly cooked and served with sausages with the Espelette pepper.
Rillettes de Truite Fumée et ses Toasts, Salade de Haricots de Soissons – Smoked trout made into a fish paste and served with toast accompanied by a salad with the beans from Soissons.  (Rillets, may be made with fish, duck, goose, and pork are not to be confused with rillons or rillots which use a very different method of cooking).

Velouté de Haricots de Soissons au Chorizo, Œuf Poché. A velvety soup made with the Soissons beans served with chorizo sausage and a poached egg.

Gibraltar made Soissons Famous.

Soissons was internationally famous before the first bean was grown in the region; then, in 1729, an international conference was held there.  The conference aimed to end a number of international problems but mainly the Anglo-Spanish War.  At that conference among various agreements Spain agreed to Great Britain’s sovereignty over Gibraltar; Spain has regretted that treaty ever since.  Eating the Soissons beans probably creates digestion problems for Spaniards.

Where is Soissons

Soissons is a town and commune (a commune includes an administrative and commercial area around a town or village); the town is in the department of Aisne in Hauts-de-France in northern France located on the Aisne River. (Aisne was previously in the region of Picardy but on 1-1-2016 became part of the super region of Hauts de France, The Heights of France was created when the regions of Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy were joined).  Soissons is about 108 km (68 miles) northeast of Paris, one hour and ten minutes by a TGV fast train. Soissons is also one of the longest inhabited settlements in France from before the Romans and Julius Caesar who arrived in C.E. 47. 

Visiting Soissons?
Fête du Haricot de Soissons
The fete of the Soissons bean led by the members of the Confrérie du Haricot de Soissons and their children. Bean counters are at the back of the parade.
The fete is held over three days beginning on the fourth Friday in September. N.B. Always check the dates with the Tourist Information Office.

The Soissons Tourist Information Office has a French language website; nevertheless, using the Bing or Google translate apps make the website understandable and useful.

The Soissons Cathedral, correctly called the Cathédrale Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais was begun in the mid-1100’s and completed in the latter part of the 13th century. Some of the stained glass windows date from the 13th century.
Soissons Cathedral
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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
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For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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