Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A Feast Inspired by The Borgias

So if you read any cooking magazines, you will have seen by now a flashy add for Jeremy Irons as Pope Alexander VI in "The Borgias: The Original Crime Family." I have no doubt it will be a bodice-ripping, blood-splattered melodrama like The Tudors. But what caught my attention is a feast inspired by the series, with culinary luminaries like Marcus Samuelsson, Todd English, Nancy Silverton and Cat Cora.

In case you don't know the Borgias, Rodrigo was from Valencia and became pope Alexander VI in 1492, drew up the infamous Treatise of Tordesillas which divided the world between Spain and Portugal, among more infamous acts. So I guess that's why they were thinking New World ingredients. Chili sauce on shrimp, tomatoes in a cibreo, and a chocolate budino for dessert.

But of course the Borgias never ate any such things. Tomatoes and chilis don't show up in recipes until the late 17th century, and chocolate was drunk, not put into cakes until much later - and no European in the 15th century ever tasted chocolate anyway. OK, I know, they say "inspired by" but why? They could have used real dishes these people ate, taken directly from contemporary cookbooks. There are even Catalan recipes (that I a convinced come from Rupert of Nola) adapted in Martino of Como and published in Platina's De honesta voluptate. (Produced at the papal court for God's Sake!) In other words they had the real thing - and there are even modern editions. And they decided to fake it. What's the point? What do you learn about anything except the egos of these chefs. Drives me absolutely rabid! A real opportunity to taste culinary history and they make the whole thing up! (I now fling myself into the corner with my mouth foaming).

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