Although originally from Marseille, Cod Brandade has become the typical dish of the city of Nîmes.
The dish came about largely because of the route taken by the old Salt Road.
In the past, fishermen from Europe used to travel to Camargue to buy the salt they used to preserve their catches over the long fishing season off Newfoundland. On one of these journeys, the fishermen came up with the idea of mixing the cod, after grinding up the flesh, with olive oil.
The resulting Cod Brandade (from the Latin 'brandare', 'to turn') started cropping up in literature in 1760, and was introduced to the Gard region, then at the foot of the 'Tour Magne' in 1790, by Charles Durand. This famous chef, originally from Alès, worked for the Bailli de Suffren, and took the dish with him to Marseille, where he worked for highly regarded caterers.
Thanks to Charles Durand, the dish had established its pedigree by around 1830, and became the stock dish for Fridays and Easter. Slowly but surely it spread across the south of France, then started moving north until it entered the radar of the ardent promoter Alphonse Daudet, from Nîmes. He started Brandade evenings in Paris, when the dish was brought directly to the table by train, from Nîmes! These literary get-togethers brought together the likes of Emile Zola, Gustave Flaubert and Edmond Goncourt.
Cod Brandade had its golden age in France up until the end of the Second World War, but then lost popularity as cod increasingly came to be seen as a poor man's food, and the techniques to preserve the dish became far too expensive for its producers.
Contrary to popular conception, there are no potatoes in the true Brandade from Nîmes, because they actually spoil the dish.
The recipe is very simple: the cod must first be desalted, then deboned, shredded finely and mixed with a wooden spoon while adding milk and olive oil.
Traditionally, it should be served hot and may be prepared in a puff-pastry shell.
Before the days of the refrigerator, cod had to be salted and dried in order to prevent it from going bad. It is found in abundance in the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea.© Ermess / 123RF
This version of 'brandade' is made by emulsifying cod and olive oil using a pestle and mortar. 'Brandar' also happens to be the Occitan word for 'to pound'.© Boo Lee
The Parisian version of 'brandade' is prepared using milk or cream and served rather like a shepherd's pie.© Jean-Louis Vosgien / 123RF
As is rather common in Nice, plenty of vegetables can be stuffed with 'Brandade de Morue'.© Easyvoyage.com