[Sca-cooks] *Sigh* That tomato thing - again

Louise Smithson helewyse at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 2 07:20:33 PDT 2006

What puts the burlap in my small clothes about thiese topics that will never
die, and gain popularity every time they are posited, is that they all seem
ensconsed in very bad scholarship. The very archetype of "let's see if we
can make this period" rather than looking to see what was and was not done
when and where duriing our time-location of interest. Should someone do
responsible and thorough research on the development and propagation of
tomatoes in Europe in our late decades, then one would get a good idea what
was and was not done with the foodstuff.

  You mean like this:
  No discussion about new world foods in Italian cuisine would be complete without at least mentioning the tomato.  However, despite the ubiquitous presence of the tomato in Italian cuisine today there is little or no evidence of it's presence to any meaningful extent in the 16th century.  In fact the spread in the use of tomatoes in various recipes and most particularly sauces appears to be strongly linked with the industrialization of food, particularly the production both of dried pasta and of canned and peeled tomatoes [8] the later most successfully by the Cirio corporation.  So until the 18th century we have few, if any indications of widespread (or even spotty) use of the tomato in Italy. 
  The following three tomato references, from the 16th century, are taken from a previous set of translations (sources collected by THL Johnnae llyn Lewis and translated by me and Mistress Brighid ni Charain); available in the florilegium: www.florilegium.org/files/FOOD-VEGETABLES/16C-Tomato-art.html
  Pietro Andrea Mattioli [10]
  "Portansi ai tempi nostri d'un'altra spetie in Italia schiacciate come le mela rose e fatte a spicchi, di colore prima verde e come sono mature di color d'oro le quali pur si mangiano nel medesimo modo (delle melanzane)".
  Translation: One can find in our time another species in Italy segmented like a rose hip and made in segments, first of color green and when it is mature of color gold the which one eats in the same way (as the eggplant).
  Costanzo Felici
  "Pomo d'oro, così detto volgarmente dal suo intenso colore, ovvero pomo del Perù, quale o è giallo intenso ovvero è rosso gagliardamente – e questo o è tondo equalmente ovvero è distinto in fette come il melone - ancora lui da ghiotti et avidi de cose nove è desiderato nel medemo modo et ancora fritto nella padella como l'altro, accompagnato con succo de agresto, ma al mio gusto è più presto bello che buono".
  Translation: Apple of gold, so called vulgarly because of its intense color, or apple of Peru, they are an intense yellow or a golden red – and this (fruit) is equal and round or distinct in slices (segments) like the melon –him that is greedy and eager for new things desires it in the same way and also fried in the pan like others, accompanied with vejuice, but to my taste it is more beautiful than good (tasty).
  Source: "De l'insalata e piante che in qualunque modo vengono per cibo de l'homo" Manoscritti del 1569-1572 raccolti a cura di Guido Arbizzoni
  Translation: Of the salads and plants in whatever way are used for food of man. Manuscripts of 1569 –1572 collected in the care of Guido Arbizzoni
  Castor Durante
  "I pomi d'oro mangiansi nel medesmo modo che le melanzane con pepe, sale e olio, ma danno poco e cattivo nutrimento"
  Translation: The tomato one eats in the same way as the eggplant with pepper, salt and oil, but it gives little and evil nutrition.
  Source: "Herbario nuovo", Roma, 1585, dall'introduzione di Piero Camporesi a "La scienza in cucina e l'arte del mangiare bene" di Pellegrino Artusi.  (Translation: New herbal, Rome 1585, from the introduction of Piero Camporesi to “The science in cooking and the art of eating well” of Pellegrino Artusi)
  The earliest recipes to include tomatoes can be found in Lo scalco alla moderna, by Antoinio Latini, published in 1692/94 (at that time part of the Spanish empire).  The following originals and translations are taken directly from the paper by Rudolf Grewe [16].
  Salsa di Pomadoro, alla Spagnuola (Latini, Lo scalco, vol 1, p 444)
  Piglierai una mezza dozzena di Pomadoro, che sieno mature; le porrai sopra le brage, èbrustolare, e dopo che saranno abbruscate, gli leverai la scorza diligentemente, e le triterai minutamente con il Cotello, e v’aggiungerai cippola tritate minute, a discretione, peparolo pure tritato minuto, serpollo o piperna in poca quantità, e mescolando ogni cosa insieme, l’accommoderai con un pò di sale, oglio, & aceto, che sarà una salsa molto gustosa, per bollito, o per altro. 
  Tomato sauce, Spanish style 
  Take half a dozen tomatoes that are ripe, and put them to roast in the embers, and when they are scorched, remove the skin diligently, and mince them finely with a knife.  Add onions, minced finely, to discretion; hot chili peppers, also minced finely; and thyme in a small amount.  After mixing everything together, adjust it with a little salt, oil and vinegar.  It is a very tasty sauce, both for boiled dishes or anything else.
  Altra minestra di Molignane (Latini, Lo scalco, vol 2, p 55)
  Le taglierai in pezzetti, con cipolle tritate minute, e cocuzze fresce, pur tagliate minute, e pezzetti di Poma d’oro; farai soffrigere ogni cosa insieme, con le sue erbette odorifere, con vachi d’agresta al suo tempo, & con le solite spezierie, che riuscirà una minestra alla Sagnola assai buona.  
  Another minestra: of eggplants
  Cut (the eggplants) in small pieces, with minced onions, fresh pumpkins cut small, and small pieces of tomatoes.  Sauté everything together with fragrant herbs, with sour grapes if they are in season, and with the usual spices.  You will produce a very good minestra Spanish style. 
  What is interesting about these two recipes is that while the first one most closely resembles a salsa and the use tomatoes were put in their country of origin the second recipe is almost identical to that most famous Mediterranean dish the ratatouille.  Showing that tomatoes, an ingredient which was absent from cookbooks for so long was finally being accepted into the cuisine.  But however they are being used at this point there is still no evidence that either of these two sauces was served on pasta as would be the case today.  
  So what hindered the spread of the tomato: let’s look again at the requirements for spread: 
  a.        Do they grow in the new agro climate? - yes
  b.       Easy adaptation to the cultural practices common in the main crops of the new region - no
  c.        Prolonged production and supply periods - prior to canning no 
  d.       Resistance to transport and handling, and extended post harvest life - prior to canning and ethylene ripening no
  e.        Can it be sold through existing marketing channels - uncertain
  f.         Attractive to consumers, suitable taste for consumers - no, was considered by many to be poisonous. 
  g.       Easy to consume or prepare - can they cook it in familiar ways? - no, does not fit into existing culinary tradition. 
  > This was part of a larger class on new world foods in old world menus.  I covered maize, squash, green beans, turkey and tomato.  
  What is of interest to note is that maize, squash, & green beans got a whole page in Mattioli while the poor tomato got a mere two lines included in the description for eggplant.  If you want to see the handout for the entire class I have posted it to the SCA cooks file section on the Yahoo group page. 

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