Source: Tidbits in Florence c. 1890   Leave a comment

One of the great challenges with Italian food in the nineteenth-century is to, brush away the references to the Franco-Italian cuisine of the rich, and to discover just what the normal urban Italian was eating. Sometimes we have chance but informative references. This one comes from Florence c. 1890. The ‘Archaeologist’ is a foreign friend of the author. SY

The antecedents of the Archaeologist are known to few. One infers that a laborious life in college, library, shop, or the inheritance of some tiny legacy, on the borders of the Baltic Sea, has enabled him to realize his dreams, and seek Italy. He rents a furnished room, narrow and chill, in the household of a worthy chemist on one of the crooked streets in the rear of the Palazzo Vecchio. He rambles about the market-place, partaking of the food of the citizens, at a very trifling expense, much more frequently than he seeks a restaurant, or hotel table d’ hôte; here tidbits of fish, polenta, artichoke, and the flowers of the squash, dipped in batter, frying to a crisp brown tint in the bubbling oil of the casserole over the charcoal brazier, in the door of the cook-shop, tempt him; there the portions of boiled ham, roast beef, Bologna sausage, and Gorgonzola cheese invite to a more substantial repast; or fruit, and all the delicate varieties of bread made by English, Swiss, or Viennese bakers await him. Possibly he accepts these trifles of daily life as possessing a deeper significance than the mere nourishment of the body. Thus he has been known to waylay the vender of candied fruit on the Trinity Bridge, and purchase the segments of sticky pears, or sugared oranges in the brass dish, not from any fondness for the delicacy, but because he traces a marked Etruscan origin of speech in the aspirated cry of ‘Caramella’, rendered by the cockney Florentine as ‘Haramella’. He has been further known to sit on a wall in the country by the hour, with the motive of beguiling an intelligent young contadino to describe to him incidents of the last harvest season, in order to enjoy the picturesqueness of the language employed, and the felicitous turns of expression of this naive son of the soil, so nearly akin to Latin sources in the mind of the listener.

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Posted January 3, 2011 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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