Originally—and we mean way back to at least the early 17th century—people in the French countryside didn't eat much meat. When they did, it was the affordable odds and ends and perhaps not the freshest. So, they often cooked it for long periods of time in a single pot with vegetables while they did their farm work. It was called Pot Pourri, which morphed into Pot au Feu as time marched on and versions of it became a traditional favorite all throughout France, even as finer ingredients became more generally available to many more people.
Making a Pot au Feu is a very grounding experience, and can be a social one, too. We have loved getting together to go to the local Médoc farmers market in Saint-Vivien and buying all the wonderful vegetables—leeks, carrots, celery, onions, potatoes and other root vegetables, herbs—for the dish, as well as the butcher's for the marrow bones and beef cuts. Once home, we prep everything and get the "stew" going. By dinnertime, the house smells amazing, and we are all ready to dig into a marvelous and beloved feast.
Want to try it yourself? Bravo! Here's a great recipe to use, but don't be afraid to make it your own based on what you already have to throw in or your own ideas.
PS: For reference...
Pot au Feu #1
Pot au Feu #2