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Asterix, The Gaulish Gourmet

December 1, 2011

Short introduction to Asterix the Gaul for those who don’t know him yet!!

Asterix the Gaul

Asterix the Gaul is the first volume of the Asterix comic strip series, by René Goscinny (stories) and Albert Uderzo (illustrations). The Asterix series is one of the most popular Franco-Belgian comics in the world, with the series being translated into over 100 languages, and to date, 325 million copies of 34 Asterix books have been sold worldwide, making co-creators René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo France’s bestselling authors abroad.

The series follows the exploits of a village of indomitable Gauls as they resist Roman occupation. They do so by means of a magic potion, brewed by their druid, which gives the recipient superhuman strength. The protagonist, the titular character Asterix, along with his friend Obelix have various adventures.

The series is primarily an humorous parody mainly French society of the 1960s and 1970s, and the stereotypes of the French regions and foreign peoples.

Plot summary

All of Gaul is under Roman control, except for one small village of indomitable Gauls that still holds out against the Romans.

The 100 Books of the Century

Asterix The gaul was voted one of the 100 great book of the century

Number  23

Asterix the Gaul

René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo 1959 French

Twelve Tasks of Asterix-The Great Chef of the Titans

The Gaulish Gourmet : The Corpus!

Short tour of Gastronomic experience though the cartoons of Axterix the Gaul

In the earliest works, little mention was made of Gaulish cuisine, with the possible exception of the roasted boar and the inevitable final banquets. However, with each album, food gradually became a regular feature in the Adventures of Asterix, and especially those of Obelix, whose legendary appetite provides ample explanation for his “well-build” silhouette!

Far from reducing Gaulish cuisine to a long series of roasted boar, the albums are an excellent illustration of the adage: “You are what you eat!”

As early as the first album Asterix the Gaul, our heroes’ culinary preferences are revealed. Obelix’s gluttony is already well on the way to becoming legendary. He just cannot resist a luscious plate of roast boar, a staple at the village table. Besides boar, steaks make a fleeting appearance in The Golden Sickle, albeit in contexts which are sometimes rather remote from the dining room… Even in Gaulish times, fruit was an important part of a balanced diet: Vitalstatistix, as a good Gaulish chief, sets an example by picking apples from on top of his shield in Asterix and the Gladiator, with the assistance of his two shield bearers. In the same adventure, Asterix and Obelix take advantage of a journey to Rome to treat themselves to… boar in a Gaulish inn!
The seeds of a great food passion had thus already been sown when Asterix and the Banquet heralded the birth of our heroes’ vast curiosity for “exotic” cuisine. It marks the beginning of our grand gourmet tour: Camaracum Humbugs sweets, the fine wines of Durucortorum, fish stew from Massilia, Nicaean salad, prunes from Aginum, oysters and wine from Burdigala, etc. And, lest we forget, the purchase of some Lutèce ham led our heroes to a shop where they would meet Dogmatix.

In Asterix and Cleopatra, villainous Artifis endangers the reputation of Gaulish cuisine by giving Cleopatra a poisoned cake in our heroes’ name, causing the Queen to boil with red-hot rage, preoccupied as she is by the health of her official taster! It takes all Getafix’s ingenuity to extract the Gauls from this jam. Potion (more or less magical) is the only foodstuff consumed in The Big Fight. Meanwhile, poor Obelix, already deprived of magic potion, as we all know, becomes even more obsessive and compulsive about his weight following a visit to the druid Psychoanalytix. Fortunately, all’s well that ends well and our celebrated glutton even croons a veritable cry from the heart to boar at the traditional closing banquet. Obelix comes close to neurasthenic frenzy when he tastes marmalade with roast meat and boar stewed in mint sauce in Asterix in Britain. A subsequent encounter with the ferocious and “romantic” Normans gives him an opportunity to discover boar in cream sauce.

A strict Spartan diet happens to be the pride if not joy of Caesar’s armies in Asterix the Legionary. However, a forceful argument from Obelix soon convinces the army’s chef to provide more copious rations to the soldiers…
Even in Gaulish times, the waters at Vichy, then known as Aquae Calidae, were famous for their curative powers, as demonstrated in Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield. Poor Vitalstatistix, suffering from a wicked case of indigestion brought on by excessive feasting, goes to the spa and is reduced to an austere diet based on boiled vegetables. The ordeal is all the crueller because Asterix and Obelix, who accompany him, eat whatever they please and plenty of it. This drives the starved inmates positively mad. In fact, our heroes even take a special side trip to Gergovia to taste the famous cabbage stews, with sausage for dessert. Apparently, the Gaulish diet can be a source of conflict, especially for those who can’t have any of it! In Asterix at the Olympic Games, the clash between Gaulish eating habits and those of the other competitors drives athletes in the Olympic village mad. In passing, we learn that Obelix is fond of mushroom soup…

“Fresh fish – it’s luverly! Who’ll buy my fine fish?” So begins Asterix in Spain, in which Huevos y Bacon, this adventure’s young hero, turns up his nose at boar! Fish begin their illustrious career in this story as projectiles and catalysts in all sorts of free-for-alls and knock-down, drag-out brawls. The Romans, resting in their tent, are shown with bowls of fruits, an unusual sight in the Gaulish village. Goat, ham, bear, and chicken in the Basquet are on the menu at the Basque Inn, while our heroes are offered sausages, sauerkraut and beer, oddly enough, in Andalusia.
The only food on the hoof in Asterix and the Roman Agent is a few boars and domestic hogs. The boar, it turns out, is not exclusive to the Gauls: Romans also enjoy this meat in the form of tripe fried in aurochs dripping, during the memorable orgies at the beginning of Asterix in Switzerland. The mouthwatering delights also include the bear black pudding and stuffed giraffes’ necks… with honey! As for the Swiss, they generally stick to a diet of melted cheese…

Donning napkins to dine at a Lutetian table in The Laurel Wreath, we discover beavers’ tails in strawberry sauce and cow’s hoof mould. Asterix and Obelix later regale the Roman Humerus family with such culinary delights as recipes based on Carbolix soap and other pomegranate seeds. As for the soothsayer Prolix, he claims to read the future in fish, hens, boars and, if truth be told, any other sort of food that naive wisdom-seekers are ready to provide – his goal simply being to assuage a huge appetite. He would even examine Dogmatix’s entrails if Obelix didn’t forcefully prevent him!

In Asterix in Corsica, the aroma of cheese makes Boneywasawarriorwawayix homesick, as he is held prisoner of the Romans, far from his Corsican homeland. For the pirates, cheese turns out to be explosive. Corsican sausage also makes a showing and boars are of course a part of the melée…

Caesar’s Gift begins with a drunken boozefest, which seemingly precludes any culinary innovation. In The Great Crossing, nourishment at first suffers an unhappy fate, when Unhygienix’s fish are once again used as missiles. Later, however, they play a starring role: first, when it is a matter of survival at sea and then again when Obelix discovers the unknown continent lying on the other side of the ocean. Nothing in its well-stocked larder of turkey or bear resists his appetite… until the natives suggest that he try some “woof woof”! The triumphant return aboard a Viking ship will serve as yet another opportunity for a feast.

Asterix in Belgium reveals the existence of trenchermen as enthusiastic as Obelix. Local delicacies include ox tongue for everyone and as much boar and pâté, as you can eat, from breakfast to dinner (though some of our European neighbours have dinner at noon and sup at sunset). For simplicity’s sake, let’s just say from dawn to dusk. A historic moment in fine dining occurs with the invention of chips and the discovery that they go perfectly with mussels…

Khaviar and roast camel are substituted for boar in Asterix and the Magic Carpet.
But in All at Sea, Obelix is beginning to despair of finding any boar fit to gnaw on, despite the valiant efforts of a Roman chef. Meanwhile we learn that Cleopatra’s lion is eager to devour a sausage made of Admiral…

Finally, in Asterix and the Actress, Obelixikins, at his mother’s urging, discovers the virtues of good nourishing soup, a healthy well-balanced meal, according to Vanilla. Meanwhile, his father, Obeliscoidix, is subsisting on a prisoner’s ration of bread and water, and dreaming, he says, of being out on the tiles with a barrel of barley beer! Fortunately, the roast boar presented at the final banquet reconciles everyone with the delights of the table… with the possible exception of Vanilla, the sworn enemy of fatty foods!

The Modus Vivendi

Wild boar: a myth or reality?

Contrary to what Asterix’s adventures would lead you to believe, wild boar was not the Gauls’ preferred dish.
They were far more fond of pork and beef from the animals they had domesticated, with a side dish of grains (the Gauls were farmers), washed down with ale, mead, or Italian wine.
Pork occupied a prime place at their table where it was served cooked in a number of ways: stewed, roasted or cured, salted, or smoked.
Butchering a hog was always an occasion to party. Everyone participated in making hams, sausages, lard, head cheese, blood pudding and quenelles from the fresh meat. Methods of preservation included drying, smoking, salting, or potting (with fat as the preservative). What was not eaten by the family was sold at markets and fairs. The animal’s fat, or lard, was used as a cooking grease.

The Gaulish banquet, an aristocratic warrior tradition

The Gaulish banquet was not a myth; it was a real tradition.
However, more than an occasion for communal rejoicing, the event served to demonstrate the host’s wealth and social status. The Gaulish social system, ruled by an extravagant aristocracy, held banquets as a form of competition as well as entertainment. Showering guests with wine and victuals ensured the popularity of the host and secured increased support to bolster his power in the community.
Later, banquets became a setting for war councils prior to great battles. The valiant Gaulish warriors, who scorned death, would quaff wine as a symbol of their enemies’ blood, soon to flow on the battlefield.

The Gauls were heavy drinkers and, by the end of their feasts, they were usually well intoxicated, either in deep slumber or in a state close to total frenzy…
According to the Greek historian and philosopher Posidonius: “The Gauls eat civilized foods, but with a wolfish appetite. They seize the pieces of meat in their fists and devour them, going as far as to gnaw on the very bones.” Sounds familiar. In fact, doesn’t it remind you of someone?

Wine in Gaulish culture

According to ancient writings, the Gauls were great lovers of wine. However, outside southern France, where vineyards had been introduced by the Greeks in 600 B.C. upon their return from Persia, wine was not grown locally. Instead, it was shipped in amphora from Greece and Italy. The Gauls later replaced these containers with wooden barrels, which were sturdier and less porous.
Only the Gaulish aristocracy drank wine on a regular basis, sharing their wealth with others during lavish banquets. It’s hardly surprising that this beverage became a symbol of power and prestige. In fact, it maintains a special aura even today.
There was little resemblance between the wine the Gauls drank and what we drink today: indeed, their tastes ran to “resinous” (picatum) or syrupy (passum) wines.

Source & Copywrong  🙂

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