"The immediate result is delicious, a pungent mixture of spices and the sea. The longer term effects of such heroic doses of garlic are undoubtedly antisocial [and, usefully in Marseilles, can deter] the attentions of any back-alley mugger." Peter Mayle in Encore Provence
Bouillabaise is a remarkable marine stew that is served in the coastal towns and cities of Provence. It is an exuberant concoction containing, at a minimum, three different kinds of fish, along with an exotic mix of sea urchins, mussels, spider crabs and octopus, along with the typical vegetables and herbs. The bouillabaise of Marseilles is particularly celebrated, but each city and town along the coast of Provence has its own distinctive way of preparing it.
A crock of bouillabaisse
If you don't have any bouillabaisse-serving restaurants near you (there are several in Washington, DC near us), you might make a Saturday project of making your own. First, pick a good recipe to use as your starting point. We like this recipe on Epicurious:
It should provide you with your base/stock, a selection of herbs and vegetables and a range of seafood types. Julia Child offers this guidance in My Life In France: "to me the telling flavor of bouillabaisse comes from two things: the Provençal soup base — garlic, onions, tomatoes, olive oil, fennel, saffron, thyme, bay, and usually a bit of dried orange peel — and, of course, the fish — lean (non-oily), firm-fleshed, soft-fleshed, gelatinous, and shellfish." Next, locate a good seafood market to assemble your own ingredients from regionally-available fresh fish. We have near us seafood markets selling blue crab, muscles and rockfish freshly caught from the Chesapeake Bay.
For those foodies who enjoy reading about food, almost as much as they enjoy eating it: Check out Peter Mayle's Encore Provence in which he narrates the subtle differences in bouillabaisse from one place to another and describes the pride that Provençals take each in his/her own family variation. Julia Child also provides clarity in My Life In France by distinguishing between what she sees as essential in this stew versus optional.