Cassoulet is a famous dish in the Languedoc and contains meat (pork sausages, pork, goose, duck, lamb or and sometimes mutton), white haricot beans and often topped with a gratin of crunchy breadcrumbs. There are a thousand versions of Cassoulet and it can be as simple or as complicated as the cook prefers but either way it is a melt in the mouth experience and once tasted, never forgotten.
There are said to be a trinity of true Cassoulets: the Father, from Castelnaudary, where it is made with fresh and smoked pork products; the Son, from Carcassone, where partridge and mutton are preferred; and the Holy Ghost, from Toulouse where pork, sausage, lamb, and duck and goose confit is used.
One legend places the birth of Cassoulet during the siege of Castelnaudary by the Black Prince, Edward the Prince of Wales, in 1355. The Provost sought to prepare a dish with all the victuals from the town would give his besieged troops courage for a coming offensive. Finding plenty of beans, fresh and salted pork, geese, and sausages, the chef prepared a huge stewed dish and served it at a banquet along with barrels of the local wine. After the banquet the soldiers set off all their artillery and then rushed straight at their British enemies. The explosions were so loud and the soldiers so rowdy that the British fled in panic and didn't stop running until they reached the shores of the English Channel.
Another story goes that long before the discovery of the Americas, in the 7th century, the Arabs introduced white beans to the French and taught the local people how to cook them in a sheep-based stew. Whichever story is correct, it is clear that cassoulet is an important part of regional French cooking, and a treat worth seeking out.