food, history and art – some ruminations by Fredrika Jacobs

as the Conclave of Cardinals convenes in Rome…

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As the kitchens fire-up the ovens to feed the assembly that has gathered at the Vatican to elect the next pope it is worth reading the sonnet “La Cucina del Papa” (or “The Pope’s Kitchen”) by Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli (1791-1863). The translation is from Adam Victor’s translation of Mariangela Rinaldi & Mariangela Vicina’s “Buon Appetito, Your Holiness: The Secrets of the Papal Table” (New York: Arcade, 2000).

My old mate the cook
this morning let me take a look
at the most holy kitchen. Kitchen?
What a kitchen, More like a seaport.

Piles of food, pots, pans,
great jars of veal and beef,
chickens, eggs, milk, fish, herbs, pork,
game and all kinds of rare dishes.

I said, “Your very good health, Holy Father,”
He said: “Well, you should see the larder,
it’s just as full by the grace of God.”

I said: “Excuse me, my poor lad!
But is some great Eminence dining with him?”
“No,” he said, the Pope always dines alone.”

… and by the way, there is a recipe for “Council Eggs”. It reads like a ‘stack’: eggs whites, topped with sausage, topped with the egg yolk, another sausage slice, and finally a dolop of egg white. Eat up!

Author: Pulcinella Pasta

Fredrika Jacobs, professor emerita of Art History at Virginia Commonwealth University, is the author of three books focused on the art and culture of Renaissance Italy ("Defining the Renaissance Virtuosa: Women Artists and the language of art history and criticism" (1997/99); "The Living Image in the Renaissance" (2005); and "Votive Panels and Popular Piety in Early Modern Italy" (2013). Additionally, she has contributed essays and articles to dozens of books and scholarly journals and spoken at symposia and conferences around the world.

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