Marie Antoinette’s may remain the best-known royal pronouncement on food, though Henri IV’s is perhaps the most noble. He wanted his subjects to be able to eat well.
In 1600, he said, “If God grants me a longer life, I will make sure that no peasant in my kingdom lacks the means to have a chicken in his pot on Sundays.”
Of that was born poule au pot.
The dish is, essentially, a stuffed chicken that is casseroled. It contains vegetables that would have readily and cheaply available even 400 or so years ago – onion, carrots, leeks – plus some bacon and white wine.
After stuffing the cavity of the chicken, you tie the legs together to hold in the stuffing and brown the chicken. Then fry the bacon and onion. Remove them from the pan, and replace with the vegetables. Once they’re ready, you return the chicken, bacon and onions to the pot and add wine and stock.
After an hour and a half in the oven, you remove the chicken and whisk in a flour and butter paste to the sauce to make it creamy. (I’ve seen modern variations on the dish that suggest using crème fraîche instead of the flour and butter paste, and I can see how that would work.)
“Henri’s concern for the people of France made him popular – and he is known as le bon roi Henri to this day”
I wonder how many families in France had a poule au pot yesterday. We don’t live in the 17th century any more, after all.
Henri’s concern for the people of France made him popular – particularly after his death, and he is known as le bon roi Henri to this day. Marie Antoinette, on the other hand, was deeply disliked. However, any claim that she suggested that people should eat cake if they had no bread is generally considered unfounded and, at best, a poor translation.