Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Papal Pasta.

Today, December 27th

Giovanni Angelo Braschi was born into a wealthy aristocratic family on this day in 1717 in Cesena in northern Italy. In 1775 he was elected Pope as a compromise candidate after four months deliberation, and took the name Pius VI. He did not let his new role get in the way of the life of luxury to which he was accustomed – in fact he almost bankrupted the country partly on account of the magnificence of his entertainments.

A cookbook (Il Cuoco Maceratese) was published during his Papacy by Antonio Nebbia, which is famous on a number of counts. It documents the upper class cuisine of the time, and included mention of the fine French sauces developed by La Varenne. It also included a recipe for the famous lasagne-style dish of the Marchese region now called vincisgrassi (although he called it princisgras) which contains chicken livers, truffles and prosciutto.

The name of Nebbia’s dish is the cause of some controversy, with the popular theory that it was named for the Austrian General Windisch Graetz being impossible because the Napoleonic Wars which caused him to be in the region did not happen until long after the book was published. There are other mysteries in the world of pasta words - the origin of the word ‘lasagne’ itself for example. The first written Italian recipe occurs in a fourteenth century cookbook from Naples. However, something pasta-like called ‘loseyns’ is described in The Form of Cury – the late fourteenth century cookbook of the master chefs of King Richard II of England. An even more intriguing (but less likely) contender is a Viking-era dish called ‘langkake’. Naturally the Italians wont listen to any of these other theories, and probably count it treason against the state to do so.

A third pasta-naming mystery occurs in our recipe of the day. There is absolutely no clue in the late Victorian English tome ‘Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery’ as to why this dish is styled “à la Pontiffe’. The ‘macaroni’ is in the form of ‘long ribbons’ too, which sounds closer to lasagne noodles than the small tubes that have the name today. Which is a fourth pasta-naming mystery, if my counting is correct.

Macaroni à la Pontiffe.
Boil eight ounces of long straight ribbon macaroni in the usual way, but fifteen minutes will be enough to swell it, which is all that is needed. Drain on a sieve, and when drained put a neat layer of it as a lining over a well-buttered mould; cover next with a quenelle forcemeat of fowl or rabbit, and full the mould with game or poultry, boned and filleted, some larks, also boned, and rolled with thin bits of bacon inside each, and some delicate strips or pieces cut into rounds about he size of a shilling, distributed with egg-balls and button mushrooms, previously simmered in gravy in the mould. Thicken the gravy, a littlr of which use to moisten the whole, cover with macaroni, and simmer, but do not boil, for an hour.

Tomorrow’s Story …

A terrible sea cook.

A Previous Story for this Day …

We had a story about Jane Austen on this day in 2005.

On this Topic …

Food for Cowboys and Popes.

Quotation for the Day …

Life is a combination of magic and pasta. Federico Fellini.

1 comment:

Nene Adams said...

Haven't I heard a rumor about the etymological origin of lasagne being found in a Greek word for chamberpot? Although I cannot really see a connection between the two articles myself.