Feb 072018
 

On this date in 1497 supporters of the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola conducted a monumental bonfire of the vanities, and, although not the first of its kind, has since been taken as the iconic event of its type (as well as being the last for some time thereafter).  A bonfire of the vanities (falò delle vanità) was the burning of objects such as cosmetics, art, and books condemned by authorities as exemplifications of, or provocations towards, sin. At Carnival in Florence in 1497, Savonarola’s followers collected and publicly burned thousands of such objects. Bonfires of the vanities were not invented by Savonarola, but had been a common accompaniment to the outdoor sermons of San Bernardino di Siena in the first half of the 15th century. The focus of this destruction was nominally on objects that might tempt one to sin, including overt items of vanity such as mirrors, cosmetics, and fine dresses, but also included playing cards, musical instruments, books that were deemed to be immoral, such as works by Boccaccio, and manuscripts of secular songs, as well as artworks, including paintings and sculpture.

Fra Girolamo Savonarola was a Dominican friar who was assigned to work in Florence in 1490, largely thanks to the request of Lorenzo de’ Medici – an irony, considering that within a few years Savonarola became one of the foremost enemies of the house of Medici and helped to bring about their downfall in 1494. Savonarola campaigned against what he considered to be the artistic and social excesses of Renaissance Italy, preaching with vigor against any sort of luxury. His power and influence expanded mightily, so that in time he became the effective ruler of Florence, and even had soldiers for his protection following him around everywhere.

Beginning in February 1495, during Carnival, Savonarola began to host his regular “bonfire of the vanities.” He collected various objects that he considered to be objectionable: irreplaceable manuscripts, ancient sculptures, antique and contemporary paintings, priceless tapestries, and many other valuable works of art, as well as mirrors, musical instruments, books of divination, astrology, and magic. He destroyed the works of Ovid, Propertius, Dante, and Boccaccio. So great was his influence that he even managed to obtain the cooperation of major contemporary artists such as Sandro Botticelli and Lorenzo di Credi, who reluctantly consigned some of their own works to his bonfires. Anyone who tried to object found their hands being forced by teams of ardent Savonarola supporters. These supporters called themselves Piagnoni (Weepers) after a public nickname that was originally intended as an insult.

Savonarola’s influence did not go unnoticed by the higher church officials, however, and his excesses earned him the disdain of Pope Alexander VI. He was eventually excommunicated on May 13th, 1497, and executed on May 23, 1498 by being hung on a cross and burned to death. Ironically, the papal authorities would take a leaf out of Savonarola’s book on censorship, because the day after his execution they gave word that anyone in possession of the Friar’s writings had four days to turn them over to a papal agent to be destroyed. Anyone who failed to do so faced excommunication.

Although it is widely reported that the Florentine artist Sandro Botticelli burned several of his paintings based on classical mythology in the great Florentine bonfire of 1497, the historical record on this is not clear. According to the art historian Giorgio Vasari, Botticelli was a partisan of Savonarola: “He was so ardent a partisan that he was thereby induced to desert his painting, and, having no income to live on, fell into very great distress.” Writing several centuries later, Orestes Brownson, an apologist for Savonarola, mentions artwork only by Fra Bartolomeo, Lorenzo di Credi, and “many other painters,” along with “several antique statues.”

Art historian Rab Hatfield argues that one of Botticelli’s paintings, The Mystical Nativity, is based on the sermon Savonarola delivered on Christmas Eve, 1493.

The event has been represented or mentioned in varying degrees of detail in a number of works of historical fiction, including George Eliot’s Romola (1863), E. R. Eddison’s A Fish Dinner in Memison (1941), Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961), Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s The Palace (1978), Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient – part two 1992, Roger Zelazny and Robert Sheckley’s If at Faust You Don’t Succeed (1993), Timothy Findley’s Pilgrim (1999), Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason’s Rule of Four (2004), the novel I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis (2006), the Showtime series The Borgias, The Sky (Italy) and Netflix (North America) series Borgia, and The Botticelli Affair by Traci L. Slatton (2013). As a metaphor, Tom Wolfe used the event and ritual as the title for his 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities with a film adaptation of the same name. Margaret Atwood’s works allude to the Bonfire, as in her dystopian novels The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), and Oryx and Crake (2003). It is also depicted in the video game Assassin’s Creed II, in which Savonarola is one of the antagonists. Jordan Tannahill’s 2016 play Botticelli in the Fire is a fictional retelling of the events leading up to the Bonfire of the Vanities.

I will turn to Maestro Martino author of Libro de Arte Coquinaria (Book on the Art of Cooking) (c. 1465), for today’s recipe. Martino de Rossi was a culinary expert who was considered unequalled at the time and is considered by some (anachronistically) the Western world’s first celebrity chef. He was probably born in northern Italy (in or near Milan) and made his career across Italy. He was the chef at the Roman palazzo of the papal chamberlain (camerlengo), the Patriarch of Aquileia. Martino was applauded by his peers, earning him the epitaph of the prince of cooks. His book is considered a milestone in Italian gastronomic literature, and he a transitional figure from Medieval to Renaissance cuisine. The whole book is available in English translation, of average quality, and you could choose recipes that graced the palates of the vainest of Renaissance Italians. Here is his recipe for an herb frittata, called “frictata” in the 15th century, that I would call modest. The recipe has no measurements, but is fairly straightforward. You can make a plain frittata, one using the poaching water of some herbs, or another using the herbs themselves. My translation is fairly literal.

Frictata.

Battirai l’ova molto bene, et inseme un poca de acqua, et un poco di lacte per farla un poco più morbida, item un poco di bon caso grattato, et cocirala in bon botiro perché sia più grassa. Et nota che per farla bona non vole esser voltata né molto cotta. Et volendola fare verde, prendirai slmilmente le cose sopra ditte giognendoli del suco de queste herbe, cioè vieta, petrosillo in bona quantità, borragine, menta, maiorana, salvia in minore quantità, passando il ditto suco; poi cavarai piste le herbe molto bene per la stamegna. Et per fare in un altro modo frittata con herbe, prendirai le sopra ditte herbe et tagliate menute le frigerai un poco in un bon botiro o oglio, mescolandole con l’ova et l’altre cose sopra ditte farai la frittata et cocirala diligentemente che sia bene staionata et non troppo cotta.

Beat eggs very well with a little water and a little milk to make it [the frittata] softer; also a little good cheese, grated, and cook it in good butter because it will be fattier. Note that, for it to be good, it should not be stirred nor cooked too much. If you wish to make it green, do the same as above and add the cooking water from the following herbs: chard, a generous amount of parsley, borage, mint, marjoram, and a lesser amount of sage, passing them through a sieve to obtain their water; then remove the herbs that will have been crushed in the sieve. And to make a frittata another way with herbs is to take the above herbs, finely chop them and fry them in a little good butter or oil, mixing with eggs and the other ingredients mentioned above you make the frittata and cook it carefully, well seasoned, and not cooked too much.

Dec 222017
 

On this date in 401, Innocent I was installed as pope and served until his death in 417. He was quite something of a stabilizing influence on the church at a time of doctrinal turmoil, with a wide-ranging influence on Catholicism that is still alive and well in the Catholic church today. Among other things, he is reputed to have been the son of the previous pope, putting the papacy on the path to being a dynasty (which never materialized, of course). That notion was short lived for all kinds of reasons. Celibacy was not actually the main issue at the time. From the beginning of his papacy, Innocent set himself up as the general arbitrator of ecclesiastical disputes in both the East and the West. He confirmed the prerogatives of the Archbishop of Thessalonica, and issued a decretal on disciplinary matters referred to him by the Bishop of Rouen. He defended the exiled John Chrysostom and consulted with the bishops of Africa concerning the Pelagian controversy. He was also the pope when the issue of the Biblical canon was settled for good. Until Innocent’s papacy the question of what books belong in the Bible and which ones do not was a hot topic. Pardon my dribble, but I do feel the need to write about the controversies that Innocent was involved in. They concern church dogma which is a sore spot with me. Spoiler alert: DOGMA SUCKS (says the ordained minister). I’d get into trouble with my presbytery if they read that remark. But I don’t care. I defended Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam during my examination for ordination, and they ordained me anyway. So, they knew what they were getting. In any case, I’m not a member of my presbytery in New York any more. I belong to Buenos Aires presbytery and most of them can’t speak English. Furthermore, they never showed any interest in me when I lived in Argentina, and I’m sure they care even less now that I live in Asia. I could, in theory, join a newly formed presbytery in Cambodia, but that seems a bit excessive. I’m retired from pastoral work, and the last thing in the world (anywhere in the world), I want to do is attend presbytery meetings.

We know very little about the early life of Innocent, and the sources are deeply conflicting. According to his biographer in the Liber Pontificalis, Innocent was a native of Albano Laziale (now a comune in the city of Rome) and the son of a man called Innocentius, but his contemporary St Jerome referred to him as the son of the previous pope, Anastasius I, a unique case (as far as we know) of a son succeeding his father in the papacy. According to Urbano Cerri, Innocent was a native of Albania (which sounds to me like a misidentification of Albano – but maybe it’s the other way around).

Innocent I was a vigorous defender of the papacy’s right to be the ultimate resort for the settlement of all ecclesiastical disputes, and he set the stage in that regard for centuries to come. His communications with Victricius of Rouen, Exuperius of Toulouse, Alexander of Antioch and others, as well as his actions on the appeal made to him by John Chrysostom against Theophilus of Alexandria, show that opportunities of this kind were numerous and varied. I’ll spare you the drama associated with Chrysostom. It has little to do with church dogmatics, and much more to do with politics in the empire, and power struggles in the church in the east. Pelagius is another matter.

Pelagius was a Celtic monk who was accused by Augustine of Hippo and others of denying the need for divine aid in performing good works. They understood him to have said that the only grace necessary was the affirmation of the law of God. He was further accused of saying that humans were not wounded by Adam’s sin and were perfectly able to fulfill the law without divine aid. More importantly, Pelagius denied Augustine’s theory of original sin, that is, all humans (with the exception of Mary and her mother) bear Adam’s sin and have to be baptized to remove the sin, otherwise they are denied entry into heaven. Well in my oh-so-humble opinion, the doctrine of original sin is nonsense. The doctrine, along with a whole raft of dogma clung to by the Catholic church, is the result of theologians like Augustine applying the logic of Aristotle to the Bible. When you start applying logic, spirituality goes out the window and you are left with dogma. I’ll go with spirituality.

Pelagius wrote two major treatises which are no longer extant, On Nature and Defense of the Freedom of the Will. In these, he defends his position on sin and sinlessness, and accuses Augustine of being under the influence of Manichaeism by elevating evil to the same status as God and teaching pagan fatalism as if it were a Christian doctrine. Manichaeism stressed that the (human) spirit was created by God, while material substance (the body) was corrupt and evil. St Paul probably believed this, so I’m not sure that all the shouting was about. Pelagius held that everything created by God was good, therefore, he could not see how God had made humans fallen creatures. (Augustine’s teachings on the Fall of Adam was not a settled doctrine at the time the Augustinian/Pelagian dispute began.) The view that humans can avoid sinning, and that we can freely choose to obey God’s commandments, stand at the core of Pelagian teaching. Pelagius stressed human autonomy and freedom of the will. Of course, as always in the case of teacher and disciple, there is a difference between what Pelagius taught, and what his followers believed. Most theologians now believe that Pelagius was completely orthodox in his teachings.

Pelagianism was condemned at the 15th Council of Carthage in 411. Afterwards, Augustine and four other bishops wrote a letter urging Pope Innocent I to condemn Pelagianism which he did. He also confirmed the decisions of the synod of the province of proconsular Africa, held in Carthage in 416, confirming the condemnation which had been pronounced in 411 against Cælestius, who shared the views of Pelagius. He also wrote in the same year in a similar sense to the fathers of the Numidian synod of Mileve. Augustine was shocked that Pelagius and Celestius were not denounced as heretics, however, and called the Council of Carthage in 418 (one year after Innocent’s death) and laid out nine points of dogma which Pelagius was accused of denying:

    Death came from sin, not man’s physical nature.

    Infants must be baptized to be cleansed from original sin.

    Justifying grace covers past sins and helps avoid future sins.

    The grace of Christ imparts strength and will to act out God’s commandments.

    No good works can come without God’s grace.

    We confess we are sinners because it is true, not from humility.

    The saints ask for forgiveness for their own sins.

    The saints also confess to be sinners because they are.

    Children dying without baptism are excluded from both the kingdom of heaven and eternal life.

If I were you, I’d read the list, laugh, and forget about it. If you want to put it in a nutshell, Augustine and his ilk are saying that humans are bad through and through, but are saved by God’s grace. Otherwise, they will just be pure evil. Your free will is no help. Furthermore, if you are not baptized (properly – by a priest), you can’t go to heaven. Where’s my rubbish bin?

It is accepted that the canon of the Bible was closed c. 405 by Innocent, when he sent a list of the sacred books to a Gallic bishop, Exsuperius of Toulouse, confirming the list approved by the Councils of Rome (382), Hippo (393) and Carthage (397), and identical with the much later pronouncements of the Council of Trent (1545-63), except for some uncertainty in the manuscript tradition about whether the letters ascribed to Paul were 14 or only 13, in the latter case possibly implying omission of the Epistle to the Hebrews (which actually makes no claims to Pauline authorship anyway). Innocent’s canon is the current Catholic Bible which contains 73 books. Innocent did no more than assert that he was the final authority, and it was time to move on. Protestants later excluded 7 of the books that Catholics included (and Luther wanted to exclude many more). Like it or not, you have to accept the fact that the Bible was created by humans, with a great deal of debate about what should be included and what excluded, for several centuries. Innocent ended the debate for Catholics, but that should not be the end of the matter if you have a brain and actually use it. The supposed “authority” of the Bible – in ALL matters if you listen to some people – rests on accepting the decisions that clergy made over 16 centuries ago according to their ideas of what Christianity is, and should be. If you believe that their decisions were guided exclusively by the hand of God, you put more trust in them than I do.

Innocent died on 12 March 417. Accordingly, his feast day is now celebrated on 12th March, though from the 13th to the 20th century he was commemorated on 28th July. In 846, Pope Sergius II gave approval for the relics/remains of Innocent to be moved by Duke Liudolf of Saxony, along with those of his father and predecessor Anastasius, to the crypt of the former collegiate church of Gandersheim, now Gandersheim Abbey, where they now rest.

Gandersheim is in Lower Saxony, so I’ll go with a popular recipe from the region rather than a 5th century Roman recipe recreation (for variety’s sake). If you want to visit Innocent’s relics you have to visit Gandersheim, and you should try out the local specialties. They’re all based on peasant dishes and are hearty rather than refined (in the haute cuisine sense). I’ll go with Steckrübeneintopf (turnip stew). Despite the name, meat is an important part of this dish, but you can use almost all kinds of meat. You can use chicken, lamb, beef or pork, and local sausages may also be included, such as Bregenwurst, Kohlwurst, Pinkelwurst. In the recipe ingredient list I’ve just put 1 lb of meat. You choose, either one kind or a mixture.  “Turnip” (Steckrüben) here means swede or rutabaga.  You can cook this dish in a casserole in the oven after browning all the ingredients if you prefer, or use a slow cooker. I’m a stovetop kinda guy because it gives me more control. Cooking times will vary enormously depending on the meat that you choose.

Steckrübeneintopf

Ingredients:

1 lb meat, cut into serving pieces
8 oz bacon, chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
¼ cup butter
5 cups broth (approx)
2 ½ rutabaga, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery root, peeled and diced
1 lb potatoes peeled and diced
2 tsp chopped fresh marjoram
5 tbsp heavy cream (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp chopped fresh savory
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper

Instructions

Melt half of the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot and sauté the bacon until lightly browned. Add the meat and continue cooking until it is browned on all sides, stirring regularly. Add the onions and sauté until soft. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Set aside the cooked ingredients from the pot, melt the rest of the butter in the same pot, add the vegetables and sauté until soft.

Add back the cooked meats and onions, plus the broth to cover, and herbs. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer, lid on, for about an hour and a half. Check the seasonings and make sure the meat is cooked through. Add cream if you wish, stir, and garnish with parsley. Serve in the cooking pot.

Sep 202017
 

On this date in 1870 the 12th battalion of the Bersaglieri stormed Rome through a breach created by Italian artillery in the Aurelian Walls near Porta Pia leading to the capture of Rome and end of the temporal power of the pope, thus completing the unification of Italy.  The unification of Italy, known in Italian as the Risorgimento, was a long, drawn out affair facing numerous obstacles along the way. Capturing Rome and making it the capital of the new Italian state was the final piece of the puzzle.

Rome was a crucial prize for all kinds of reasons. For starters, Rome was of deep symbolic importance because of its historic role as a capital city dating back to the ancient Roman empire.  Second, it had been the seat of the papacy (off and on) for many centuries, and both the pope and the papal states had wielded enormous political, military, and economic power throughout Europe. The fall of Rome marked the end of this power.  Third, the unification of Italy up to that point had been dominated by the north, notably Piedmont, so that the initially unified kingdom of Italy (1861) under Victor Emmanuel II, former king of Sardinia, was a severely fractured nation with ongoing political hostilities and divisions between southern and northern states (that continues to this day). Creating Rome as the capital of the newly formed nation was expected to soften the dominance of the north because of its strategic geographic location (midway between south and north).

During the Second Italian War of Independence (1859), much of the territory of the Papal States had been conquered by the Piedmontese Army, and the newly unified kingdom of Italy was created when the first Italian Parliament met in Turin. On 27 March 1861, the Parliament declared Rome the capital of the kingdom of Italy. However, the Italian government could not take its seat in Rome because it did not control the territory. In addition, a French garrison was maintained in the city by Napoleon III of France in support of Pope Pius IX, who was determined not to hand over temporal power it had in the Papal States. In July 1870, at the very last moment of the Church’s rule over Rome, the First Vatican Council was held in the city – affirming the doctrine of papal infallibility

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In July 1870, the Franco-Prussian War began. In early August, Napoleon III recalled his garrison from Rome. The French not only needed the troops to defend their homeland, but there was also real concern in Paris that Italy might use the French presence in Rome as a pretext to go to war with France. In the earlier Austro-Prussian War (1866), Italy had allied with Prussia and Italian public opinion favored the Prussian side at the start of the war. The removal of the French garrison eased tensions between Italy and France. Italy remained neutral in the Franco-Prussian War.

With the French garrison gone, widespread public demonstrations demanded that the Italian government take Rome. But Rome remained under French protection on paper, therefore an attack would still have been regarded as an act of war against the French Empire. Furthermore, although Prussia was at war with France, it had gone to war in an uneasy alliance with the Catholic South German states that it had fought against (alongside Italy) just four years earlier. Although Prussian prime minister Otto von Bismarck was no friend of the papacy, he knew any war that put Prussia and the Holy See in opposing alliances would almost certainly have upset the delicate pan-German coalition, and with it his own carefully laid-out plans for national unification. For both Prussia and Italy, any misstep that caused the breakup of the pan-German coalition brought with it the risk of Austro-Hungarian intervention in a wider European conflict.

Above all else, Bismarck made every diplomatic effort to keep Prussia’s conflicts of the 1860s and 1870s localized and prevent them from spiraling out of control into a general European war. Therefore, not only was Prussia unable to offer any sort of alliance with Italy against France, but actually had to make diplomatic efforts to maintain Italian neutrality and keep the peace on the Italian peninsula, at least until the potential of a conflict there becoming intertwined with her own war with France had passed. Moreover, the French Army was still regarded as the strongest in Europe – and until events elsewhere took their course, the Italians were unwilling to provoke Napoleon III.

It was only after the surrender of Napoleon III and his army at the Battle of Sedan the situation changed radically. The French Emperor was deposed and forced into exile. The best French units had been captured by the Prussians, who quickly followed up their success at Sedan by marching on Paris. Faced with a pressing need to defend its capital with its remaining forces, the new French government was clearly not in a military position to retaliate against Italy. In any event, the new government was far less sympathetic to the Holy See and did not possess the political will to protect the Pope’s position.

Finally, with the French government on a more democratic footing and the seemingly harsh Prussian peace terms becoming public knowledge, Italian public opinion shifted sharply away from the German side in favor of France. With that development, the prospect of a conflict on the Italian peninsula provoking foreign intervention pretty much vanished.

King Victor Emmanuel II sent Conte Gustavo Ponza di San Martino to Pius IX with a personal letter offering a face-saving proposal that would have allowed the peaceful entry of the Italian Army into Rome, under the guise of protecting the pope. Along with the letter, the count carried a document setting out ten articles to serve as the basis for an agreement between Italy and the Holy See.

The Pope would retain the inviolability and prerogatives attaching to him as a sovereign. The Leonine City (surrounding the Vatican) would remain “under the full jurisdiction and sovereignty of the Pontiff”. The Italian state would guarantee the pope’s freedom to communicate with the Catholic world, as well as diplomatic immunity both for the nuncios and envoys in foreign lands and for the foreign diplomats at the Holy See. The government would supply a permanent annual fund for the pope and the cardinals, equal to the amount currently assigned to them by the budget of the pontifical state, and would assume all papal civil servants and soldiers onto the state payroll, with full pensions as long as they were Italian.

The pope met San Martino on 10th September 1870 and violently responded, “Fine loyalty! You are all a set of vipers, of whited sepulchres, and wanting in faith. . . . I am no prophet, nor son of a prophet, but I tell you, you will never enter Rome!”

The Italian army, commanded by General Raffaele Cadorna, crossed the papal frontier on 11 September and advanced toward Rome, moving slowly in the hope that a peaceful entry could be negotiated. The Papal garrisons had retreated from Orvieto, Viterbo, Alatri, Frosinone and other strongholds in the Lazio, Pius IX himself being convinced of the inevitability of a surrender. When the Italian Army approached the Aurelian Walls that defended the city, the papal force was commanded by General Hermann Kanzler, and was composed of the Swiss Guards and a few “zouaves”—volunteers from France, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, and other countries—for a total of 13,157 men against around 50,000 Italians.

The Italian army reached the Aurelian Walls on 19th September and placed Rome under a state of siege. Pius IX decided that the surrender of the city would be granted only after his troops had put up enough resistance to make it plain that the take-over was not freely accepted. On 20th September, after a cannonade of three hours had breached the Aurelian Walls at Porta Pia (Breccia di Porta Pia), the crack Piedmontese infantry corps of Bersaglieri entered Rome. In the event 49 Italian soldiers and 19 Papal Zouaves died. Rome and the region of Lazio were annexed to the Kingdom of Italy after a plebiscite.

The Leonine City, excluding the Vatican, seat of the Pope, was occupied by Italian soldiers on September 21. The Italian government had intended to let the Pope keep the Leonine City, but the Pope would not agree to give up his claims to a broader territory and claimed that since his army had been disbanded, apart from a few guards, he was unable to ensure public order even in such a small territory.

The Via Pia, the road departing from Porta Pia, was rechristened Via XX Settembre (September 20). Subsequently, in numerous Italian cities the name Venti Settembre was given to the main road leading to the local Cathedral. A monument was erected in 1932 in front of Porta Pia to commemorate the event at the same time as the National Museum of the Bersaglieri corps was moved to Porta Pia, where it remains to this day.

By rights I should give you trippa alla romana – a Roman tripe dish I have enjoyed in a little restaurant by the Tiber, but instead I’ll give you another absolutely classic Roman dish, corda alla vaccinara (butcher’s oxtail), an oxtail stew laden with celery. The oxtail is parboiled and then simmered with large amounts of celery (there should be 1.5 kilos of celery for every kilo of oxtail), carrots, and aromatic herbs. Tomatoes and red wine are added, and then the mixture is cooked further with a soffritto of onions, garlic, prosciutto, pancetta and some other ingredients. During the final phase of cooking, a bouquet garni of bay leaves, celery stalks, and cloves is put in the pot for flavoring. The oxtail should be cooked such a long time that the meat easily separates from the bones. It is seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, and black pepper and garnished with pine nuts.

Coda is usually prepared to taste sweet-and-sour, usually using raisins, or sometimes candied fruit or a small amount of grated bittersweet chocolate. Coda is generally prepared in advance and reheated. Leftovers can be used as a sauce for rigatoni, which is then named rigatoni al sugo di coda.

Here’s an exact recipe if you need one:

http://www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com/blog/coda-alla-vaccinara/

Jan 222017
 

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The Pontifical Swiss Guard takes today’s date as the official date of its foundation.  In September 1505 a contingent of 150 Swiss soldiers started their march towards Rome, under the command of Kaspar von Silenen, and entered the city on 22 January 1506 to take up their duties as the pope’s guard. Tourists to the Vatican are well aware of the guys who look like they might be refugees from a Renaissance Fayre.  Don’t be fooled. These guys are not toy soldiers; they are the real deal. Furthermore, their swords and halberds are not toys either. They are razor sharp and the halberdiers know how to use them.

Swiss mercenaries were fierce and highly respected in 14th and 15th century Europe, somewhat in contrast with the general popular image of Switzerland as a nation of peace-loving clockmakers. Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484) made an alliance with the Swiss Confederacy and built barracks in Via Pellegrino after foreseeing the possibility of recruiting Swiss mercenaries. The pact was renewed by Innocent VIII (1484–1492) in order to use them against the Duke of Milan. Alexander VI (1492–1503) later actually used the Swiss mercenaries during their alliance with the King of France. During the time of the Borgias, however, the Italian Wars began in which the Swiss mercenaries were a fixture in the front lines among the warring factions, sometimes for France and sometimes for the Holy See or the Holy Roman Empire. The mercenaries enlisted when they heard King Charles VIII of France was going to war with Naples. Among the participants in the war against Naples was Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, the future Pope Julius II (1503–1513), who was well acquainted with the Swiss, having been Bishop of Lausanne years earlier.

The expedition failed, in part thanks to new alliances made by Alexander VI against the French. When Cardinal della Rovere became Pope Julius II in 1503, he asked the Swiss Diet to provide him with a constant corps of 200 Swiss mercenaries. This was made possible through the financing of the German merchants from Augsburg, Bavaria, Ulrich and Jacob Fugger, who had invested in the Pope and saw it fit to protect their investment. There have been a few short periods when the Swiss Guard was disbanded for one reason or another, so they cannot claim to have an absolutely unbroken record. But, even so, they are one of the oldest standing armies in existence. They are also the smallest.

sg10

The force has varied greatly in size over the years. Its most significant hostile engagement was on 6 May 1527, when 147 of the 189 Guards, including their commander, died fighting the troops of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in the stand of the Swiss Guard during the Sack of Rome in order to allow Clement VII to escape through the Passetto di Borgo, escorted by the other 40 guards. The last stand battlefield is located on the left side of St Peter’s Basilica, close to the Campo Santo Teutonico (German Graveyard). Clement VII was forced to replace the Swiss Guard by a contingent of 200 German mercenaries (Custodia Peditum Germanorum). Ten years later, under Pope Paul III, the Swiss Guard was reinstated, under commander Jost von Meggen.

After the end of the Italian Wars, the Swiss Guard ceased to be used as a military combat unit in the service of the pope and its role became mostly that of the protection of the person of the pope and of a ceremonial guard. However, twelve members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard of Pius V served as part of the Swiss Guard of admiral Marcantonio Colonna in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.

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The office of commander of the Papal Guard came to be a special honor in the Catholic part of the Swiss Confederacy. It became strongly associated with the leading family of Lucerne, Pfyffer von Altishofen. Between 1652 and 1847, nine out a total of ten commanders were members of this family (the exception being Johann Kaspar Mayr von Baldegg, also of Lucerne, served 1696–1704).

In 1798, commander Franz Alois Pfyffer von Altishofen went into exile with the deposed Pius VI. After the death of the pope on 29 August 1799, the Swiss Guard was disbanded and only reinstated by Pius VII in 1801. In 1808, Rome was again captured by the French and the guard was disbanded again. Pius VII was exiled to Fontainebleau. The guard was reinstated under the same commander, Karl Leodegar Pfyffer von Altishofen, when the pope returned from exile in 1814. The guard was disbanded yet again in 1848, when Pius IX fled to Gaeta, but the guard was reinstated when the pope returned to Rome in the following year.

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In the later 19th century, the Swiss Guard developed into a purely ceremonial function. Guards in the Vatican were “Swiss” only in name, mostly born in Rome to parents of Swiss descent and speaking the Roman Trastevere dialect. The modern Swiss Guard is the product of the reforms pursued by Jules Repond, commander during 1910–1921. Repond proposed to recruit only native citizens of Switzerland and he introduced rigorous military exercise. He also attempted to introduce modern arms, but Pius X only permitted the presence of firearms if they were not functional. Repond’s reforms and strict discipline were not well received by the corps, culminating in a week of open mutiny in July 1913. In his project to restore the Swiss Guard to its former prestige, Repond also dedicated himself to the study of historical costume, with the aim of designing a new uniform that would be both reflective of the historical Swiss costume of the 16th century and suited for military exercise. The result of his studies was published as Le costume de la Garde suisse pontificale et la Renaissance italienne (1917). Repond designed the distinctive Renaissance-style uniforms still worn by the modern Swiss Guard. The introduction of the new uniforms was completed in May 1914.

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The foundation of Vatican City as a modern sovereign state was negotiated in the Lateran Treaty of 1929. The duties of protecting public order and security in the Vatican lay with the Papal Gendarmerie Corps, while the Swiss Guard, the Palatine Guard and the Noble Guard served mostly ceremonial functions. The Palatine and Noble Guards were disbanded by Paul VI in 1970, leaving the Swiss Guard as the only ceremonial guard unit of the Vatican. At the same time, the Gendarmerie Corps was transformed into a Central Security Office, with the duties of protecting the Pope, defending Vatican City, and providing police and security services within its territory, while the Swiss Guard continued to serve primarily ceremonial functions. Paul VI in a decree of 28 June 1976 defined the nominal size of the corps at 90 men. This was increased to 100 men by John Paul II on 5 April 1979.

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Since the assassination attempt on John Paul II of 13 May 1981, a much stronger emphasis has been placed on the guard’s non-ceremonial roles. The Swiss Guard was developed into a modern guard corps equipped with modern small arms, and members of the Swiss Guard in plain clothes now accompanied the pope on his travels abroad for his protection.

To be considered for the guard a man must be between the ages of 19 and 30, unmarried, Swiss by birth, Catholic. Most also hold university or professional degrees. At minimum they must have completed basic training in the Swiss military. Service in the guard may be from 2 to 25 years.  They may marry after three years’ service if they are over the age of 25.

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Although their duties are largely ceremonial, the guards are all fit and well trained, and their armory looks like a weapons museum stocked with everything from cutlasses and muskets to the latest in automatic pistols and rifles – and, they are all in good condition, and are routinely used.

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To celebrate the Swiss Guard I’ve chosen a very popular recipe, originally from the German-speaking cantons of Switzerland, but now widespread, and considered a mainstay of Swiss cuisine: rösti.  These may look like conventional US hash browns, but they are infinitely more toothsome.

Rösti

Ingredients

660 g Yukon Gold potatoes
125 g unsalted butter
7 g kosher salt
150 g crème fraîche
chives, chopped

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 °F / 190 °C.

Clean and peel the potatoes. Shave potatoes lengthwise on a mandoline (approximately 0.03 in / 1 mm thick). Stack the slices in several small piles and cut them into shreds.

Place the shredded potatoes into cold water and thoroughly rinse away the excess starch. Then drain the shreds and dry them with paper towels.

Melt the butter, add the salt, and toss the shreds in the butter mixture.  Do not do this until you are ready to start cooking or the salt will draw water from the potatoes.

Heat a large (10 in / 25 cm) nonstick, ovenproof frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the prepared potato shreds to the hot pan. Press them flat so that they completely cover the bottom of the pan. Cook until the bottom surface becomes golden and crisp (about 5 minutes).

Put the pan in the pre-heated oven and bake for 10–15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and then carefully flip the rösti over. Bake for another 15 minutes.

Some cooks add an additional step at this point, although the rösti is ready to eat at this point. Remove the rösti from the pan and place it directly on a baking rack set over a baking sheet. Return this assembly to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes. This makes the surface becomes very crisp.

Remove from the oven and let the rösti rest for 5 minutes. Then cut into wedges and serve with a garnish of crème fraîche and chopped chives.

 

Aug 102015
 

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The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 — also known as Popé’s Rebellion — was an uprising of most of the Pueblo Indians against the Spanish colonizers in the province of Santa Fe de Nuevo México, present day New Mexico. The Pueblo Revolt killed 400 Spanish and drove the remaining 2,000 settlers out of the province. Twelve years later the Spanish returned and were able to reoccupy New Mexico with little opposition.

From 1540 to 1600 the pueblos of present-day New Mexico were subjected to seven successive waves of soldiers, missionaries, and settlers. These encounters, referred to as the Entradas, were characterized by violent confrontations between Spanish colonists and Pueblo peoples. The Tiguex War, fought in the winter of 1540-41 by the expedition of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado against the twelve or thirteen pueblos of the Tiwa, was particularly damaging to Pueblo and Spanish relations.

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In 1598 Juan de Oñate led 129 soldiers and 10 Franciscan Catholic priests plus a number of women, children, servants, slaves, and livestock into the Rio Grande valley of New Mexico. There were at the time approximately 40,000 Puebloans inhabiting the region. Oñate put down a revolt at Acoma Pueblo by killing and enslaving hundreds of the Indians and sentencing 24 men to have their right foot cut off. The Acoma Massacre would instill fear of the Spanish in the region for years to come.

Spanish colonial policies in the late 16th century regarding the humane treatment of Indians were difficult to enforce on the northern frontier. With the establishment of the first permanent colonial settlement in 1598, the Pueblos were forced to provide tribute to the colonists in the form of labor, ground corn, and textiles. Encomiendas were soon established by colonists along the Rio Grande, restricting Pueblo access to fertile farmlands and water supplies and placing a heavy burden upon Pueblo labor.

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Assault on Pueblo religion was especially annoying and harmful. Franciscan priests established theocracies in many of the Pueblo villages. The priests converted the pueblos to help build the Spanish empire in New Mexico. In 1608, it looked as though Spain might abandon the province, so the Franciscans baptized 7,000 Puebloans to try to convince the Crown otherwise. Although the Franciscans initially tolerated manifestations of the old religion as long as the Puebloans attended mass and maintained a public veneer of Catholicism, Fray Alonso de Posada (in New Mexico 1656–1665) outlawed Kachina dances by the Pueblo Indians and ordered the missionaries to seize and burn their masks, prayer sticks, and effigies. The Franciscan missionaries also forbade the use of psychoactive drugs in the traditional religious ceremonies of the pueblos. Several Spanish officials, such as Nicolas de Aguilar, who attempted to curb the power of the Franciscans were charged with heresy and tried before the Inquisition.

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In the 1670s drought swept the region, causing a famine among the Pueblo and increased raids by the Apache which Spanish and Pueblo soldiers were unable to prevent. Fray Alonso de Benavides wrote multiple letters to the King, describing the conditions, noting “the Spanish inhabitants and Indians alike hides and straps from carts”. The unrest among the Pueblos came to a head in 1675. Governor Juan Francisco Treviño ordered the arrest of forty-seven Pueblo “medicine men” and accused them of practicing “sorcery”. Four were sentenced to death by hanging; three of those sentences were carried out, while the fourth prisoner committed suicide. The remaining men were publicly whipped and sentenced to prison. When this news reached the Pueblo leaders, they moved in force to Santa Fe, where the prisoners were held. Because a large number of Spanish soldiers were away fighting the Apache, Governor Treviño was forced to accede to the Pueblo demand for the release of the prisoners. Among those released was a San Juan (Tewa: “Ohkay Owingeh”) shaman named “Popé”.

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Following his release, Popé, along with a number of other Pueblo leaders, planned and orchestrated the Pueblo Revolt. Popé took up residence in Taos Pueblo far from the capital of Santa Fe and spent the next five years seeking support for a revolt among the 46 Pueblo towns. He gained the support of the Northern Tiwa, Tewa, Towa, Tano, and Keres-speaking Pueblos of the Rio Grande Valley. The Pecos Pueblo, 50 miles east of the Rio Grande pledged its participation in the revolt as did the Zuni and Hopi, 120 and 200 miles respectively west of the Rio Grande. The Pueblos not joining the revolt were the four southern Tiwa (Tiguex) towns near Santa Fe and the Piro Pueblos south of the principal Pueblo population centers near the present day city of Socorro. The southern Tiwa and the Piro were more thoroughly integrated into Spanish culture than the other groups. The Spanish-speaking population of about 2,400, including mixed-blood mestizos, and Indian servants and retainers, was scattered thinly throughout the region. Santa Fe was the only place that approximated being a town. The Spanish could only muster 170 men with arms. The Pueblos joining the revolt probably had 2,000 or more adult men capable of using native weapons such as bows and arrows. It is possible that some Apache and Navajo participated in the revolt.

The Pueblo revolt was typical of millenarian movements in colonial societies. Popé promised that, once the Spanish were killed or expelled, the ancient Pueblo deities would reward them with health and prosperity. Popé’s plan was that the inhabitants of each Pueblo would rise up and kill the Spanish in their area and then all would advance on Santa Fe to kill or expel all the remaining Spanish. The date set for the uprising was August 11, 1680. Popé dispatched runners to all the Pueblos carrying knotted cords. Each morning the Pueblo leadership was to untie one knot from the cord, and when the last knot was untied, that would be the signal for them to rise against the Spaniards in unison. On August 9, however, the Spaniards were warned of the impending revolt by southern Tiwa leaders and they captured two Tesuque Pueblo youths entrusted with carrying the message to the pueblos. They were tortured to make them reveal the significance of the knotted cord.

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Popé then ordered that the revolt begin a day early. The Hopi pueblos located on the remote Hopi Mesas of Arizona did not receive the advanced notice for the beginning of the revolt and followed the schedule for the revolt. On August 10, the Pueblos rose up, stole Spanish horses to prevent them fleeing, sealed off roads leading to Santa Fe, and pillaged Spanish settlements. A total of 400 people were killed, including men, women, children, and 21 of the 33 Franciscan missionaries in New Mexico. Survivors fled to Santa Fe and Isleta Pueblo, 10 miles south of Albuquerque and one of the Pueblos that did not participate in the rebellion. By August 13, all the Spanish settlements in New Mexico had been destroyed and Santa Fe was besieged. The Puebloans surrounded the city and cut off its water supply. In desperation, on August 21, New Mexico Governor Antonio de Otermín, barricaded in the Governor’s Palace, sallied outside the palace with all of his available men and forced the Puebloans to retreat with heavy losses. He then led the Spaniards out of the city and retreated southward along the Rio Grande, headed for El Paso del Norte. The Puebloans shadowed the Spaniards but did not attack. The Spaniards who had taken refuge in Isleta had also retreated southward on August 15 and on September 6 the two groups of survivors, numbering 1,946, met at Socorro. About 500 of the survivors were Indian slaves. They were escorted to El Paso by a Spanish supply train. The Pueblo did not contest their passage out of New Mexico.

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The retreat of the Spaniards left New Mexico in the power of the Pueblos. Popé was a mysterious figure in the history of the southwest as there are many tales of what happened to him and among the Pueblos after the revolt. Later testimony to the Spanish by Pueblo Indians was probably colored by anti-Popé sentiments and a desire to tell the Spanish what they wanted to hear.

Apparently, Popé and his two lieutenants, Alonso Catiti from Santo Domingo and Luis Tupatu from Picuris, traveled from town to town ordering a return “to the state of their antiquity.” All crosses, churches, and Christian images were to be destroyed. The people were ordered to cleanse themselves in ritual baths, to use their Pueblo names, and to destroy all vestiges of the Roman Catholic religion and Spanish culture, including Spanish livestock and fruit trees. Popé, it was said, forbade the planting of wheat and barley and commanded those Indians who had been married according to the rites of the Catholic Church to dismiss their wives and to take others after the old native tradition.

Pueblo culture had no tradition of political unity. Each pueblo was self-governing and some, or all, apparently resisted Popé’s demands for a return to a pre-Spanish existence. The paradise Popé had promised when the Spanish were expelled did not materialize. The drought continued, destroying crops, and the raids by Apache and Navajo increased. Initially, however, the pueblos were united in their objective of preventing a return of the Spanish. Popé was deposed as the leader of the pueblos about a year after the revolt and disappears from history. He is believed to have died shortly before the Spanish reconquest in 1692.

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New Mexican cuisine would not exist without the New Mexico green chile. Contemporary cooking in pueblos is more or less the same as New Mexican cooking in general – corn, beans, pork, hominy, tortillas, etc. It has elements of Mexican, Spanish, and indigenous cooking blended together into dishes that are distinctive – not Tex-Mex (which passes for “Mexican” in the U.S.); not southern Californian Mexican. It stands alone, and one of the major factors is the New Mexico chile.

New Mexico chile is a cultivar of the chile pepper developed by pioneer horticulturist, Dr. Fabián Garcia, at New Mexico State University in 1888 (then known as Las Cruces College and the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts), created from a hybrid of various Pueblo and Santa Fe de Nuevo México cultivars. It can be grown anywhere peppers grow, but is best when farmed in the Rio Grande valley where soils and climate are ideal. Chile grown in the Hatch Valley, in and around Hatch, New Mexico is called Hatch chile. The peppers grown in the valley, and along the entire Rio Grande, from northern Taos Pueblo to southern Isleta Pueblo, is a vital component of New Mexico’s economy and culture. It is New Mexico’s state vegetable, and the official New Mexico state question is “Red or Green?”.

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If you are lucky enough to be in Santa Fe in late August or early September you’ll not miss the aroma of green chiles roasting on the streets. Vendors sell whole sacks of fresh green chiles which are then roasted over gas jets in metal tumblers (pictured). Makes you salivate on the spot. Householders buy a year’s supply at a time, quickly taking the roasted peppers home (they are burning hot), laying them out in one layer on newspaper to cool slightly, then peeling off the charred skins – ready for freezing. It’s good to wear gloves for this, or risk burning your fingertips. It’s also great to take a hot, freshly peeled pepper and wrap it in a flour tortilla for a quick snack. Flour tortillas are much more common than corn tortillas in New Mexico.

I’ve already given my “recipe” for Santa Fe green chile stew here http://www.bookofdaystales.com/world-diabetes-day/ It’s a favorite of mine, and I have made it in New York, Argentina, and China with varying degrees of success. Without New Mexico chiles it’s not the same, but you can find mild long green chiles anywhere that can make a reasonable substitute.

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There is a rule in New Mexico: “if you find a guy selling breakfast burritos out of a cooler on the back of a pick-up truck, buy one.” They’re fabulous. The basic breakfast burrito is scrambled egg and hash brown potatoes spiced with a sauce, and wrapped in a flour tortilla. It’s common to use pico de gallo as the sauce – a chopped up blend of tomatoes, onions, and cilantro in lime juice, but I find that scrambled eggs, hashed potatoes and chopped green chiles wrapped in a tortilla work just fine for a hearty breakfast.