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Fri Nov 25, 2016, 09:25 AM

Writing about food: Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose"

"The kitchen was a vast smoke-filled entrance hall, where many servants were already busy preparing the food for supper. On a great table two of them were making a pie of greens, barley, oats, and rye, chopping turnips, cress, radishes, and carrots. Nearby, another cook had just finished poaching some fish in a mixture of wine and water, and was covering them with a sauce of sage, parsley, thyme, garlic, pepper, and salt. Beneath the west tower an enormous oven opened, for baking bread; it was already flashing with reddish flames. In the south tower there was an immense fireplace, where great pots were boiling and spits were turning. ... We ate meat cooked on the spit, freshly slaughtered pigs, and I realized that in cooking other foods they did not use animal fats or rape oil but good olive oil, which came from lands the abbey owned at the foot of the mountain toward the sea.

"Then I put an end to his talk and told him that this evening my master wanted to read certain books in his cell and wished to eat up there. 'I will do,' he said, 'I will do cheese in batter.' 'How is that made?' 'Facilis. You take the cheese before it is too antiquum, without too much salt, and cut in cubes of sicut you like. And postea you put a bit of butierro or lardo to rechauffer over the embers. And in it you put two pieces of cheese, and when it becomes tenero, zucharum et cinnamon supra positurum du bis. And immediately take to table, because it must be ate caldo, caldo.' 'Cheese in batter it is, then,' I said to him. ... He arrived half an hour later with a dish covered by a cloth. The aroma was good.

"The supper for the legation was superb. ... I believe that in those days everyone abhorred the idea of killing the Lord's creatures. Nevertheless, we had a ragout of pigeon, marinated in the wine of those lands, and roast rabbit, Saint Clare's pasties, rice with the almonds of those hills -- the blancmange of fast days, that is -- and borage tarts, stuffed olives, fried cheese, mutton with a sauce of raw peppers, white broad beans, and Lucy's dumplings, and wines, and herb liqueurs that put everyone in a good humor, even Bernard Gui, usually so austere: an elixir of lemon verbena, walnut wine, wine against the gout, and gentian wine. It seemed an assembly of gluttons, except that every sip or every morsel was accompanied by devotional readings."

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