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Was cassoulet originally made with dried broad beans? Possibly. I once saw a jar labelled Févoulet in Narbonne’s poshest grocer, which was just that, and haricot beans, when they first came to France, were often called fèves or fèves de haricot, so the picture is linguistically confusing. In any case, broad beans, which came from Egypt, and black-eyed beans (Vigna) from Africa were staple foods in France long before the beans we now know as white haricots were introduced.

Haricot beans, along with maize and pumpkins, were first brought to Spain from the New World in the sixteenth century and given to monasteries in Seville who gave them, in turn, to the Pope, who no doubt had wonderful, extensive vegetable gardens at his palaces. Pope Clement VII was Catherine de Medici’s cousin and he, among others, received, in Rome, some of the new beans.