Winner of the James Beard/ KitchenAid Cookbook of the Year 2000 and Winner of the Beard Award for the Best Writing on Food 2000.
August 8, 2022
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Mangia Bene

    As the French historian Fernand Braudel noted, feasts and banquets play a very small role in Mediterranean literature with the salient exception of the food of dreams--for example, as in Cervantes' Don Quixote or Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel. In Don Quixote, the wedding feast of Camacho is a veritable orgy of excess-a whole steer spitted on a whole elm turning over a burning mountain of wood surrounded by wine jugs each large enough to hold a whole sheep. In the distended belly of the steer were two dozen delicate little suckling pigs, sewn up inside to make them tasty and tender. Scattered about, hanging from the trees, were skinned hares, plucked chickens, and other game as well as sixty wine-skins holding eight gallons of wine each, and loaves of white bread and cheeses stacked like bricks making a wall. Two cauldrons of oil were used for frying puddings, which were drained and plunged into another cauldron of honey. There were fifty cooks. The spices seem to have been bought not by the pound but by the baleful and were displayed in a great chest. Sancho's description of this feast is positively exhilarated and the reader is overjoyed at his happiness. He asks one of the cooks if he can dip a piece of bread in the broth and the cook obligingly ladles three hens and two geese. Cervantes wanted to capture the dreams and constant preoccupations of the perpetually hungry peasant.

(Photo: Picasso, Don Quixote and Sancho)