Pomodoro!: A History of the Tomato in Italy (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History)
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More than just the beloved base ingredient of so many of our favorite dishes, the tomato has generated both profound riches and controversy in its farming, processing, exchange, and consumption. It is a crop infused with national pride and passion for those who grow it, and a symbol of Old World nostalgia for those who claim its history and legacy.
Over time, the tomato has embodied a range of values and meanings. From its domestication in Central America, it has traveled back and forth across the Atlantic, powering a story of aspiration and growth, agriculture and industry, class and identity, and global transition. In this entertaining and organic history, David Gentilcore recounts the surprising rise of the tomato from its New World origin to its Old World significance. From its inauspicious introduction into Renaissance Europe, the tomato came to dominate Italian cuisine and the food industry over the course of three centuries.
Gentilcore explores why elite and peasant cultures took so long to assimilate the tomato into Italian cooking and how it eventually triumphed. He traces the tomato's appearance in medical and agricultural treatises, travel narratives, family recipe books, kitchen accounts, and Italian art, literature, and film. He focuses on Italy's fascination with the tomato, painting a larger portrait of changing trends and habits that began with botanical practices in the sixteenth century and attitudes toward vegetables in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and concluded with the emergence of factory production in the nineteenth. Gentilcore continues with the transformation of the tomato into a national symbol during the years of Italian immigration and Fascism and examines the planetary success of the "Italian" tomato today, detailing its production, representation, and consumption.
there.) Cosimo and his successors kept a menagerie as well, containing New World animals like the agouti and a type of weasel. They may have had turkeys, too. The Primavera tapestry of 1549, designed by Agnolo Bronzino and now in Florence’s Pitti Palace, depicts an American turkey so realistic that it can only have been drawn from life. It is difficult for us to imagine that an animal now so ordinary was at one time a coveted item of courtly exchange. The Medicis’ interest in the New World
Benedictine order’s houses. His cookbooks illustrate how the cultivation and consumption of the tomato was spreading throughout Italy in the mid-eighteenth century. Figure 15 Forty-year-old Vincenzo Corrado, dressed for work. (From Corrado, Del cibo pitagorico ovvero erbaceo [Naples, 1781]) In 1784, in Del cibo pitagorico ovvero erbaceo, his book on cooking vegetables, Corrado wrote that tomatoes were not only tasty but good for us, too. “According to the physicians,” Corrado wrote, “their
the European diet, with the exception of peanuts and sunflowers, which were not widely consumed until later, and manioc and sweet potatoes, which never have had a significant presence in Europe. Moreover, those species that do appear in the herbals are frequently given an Old World origin, either North Africa or the Middle or Far East. We must remember that the New World continued to be perceived as a part of the Indies and that classical descriptions of plants, like those of Dioscorides, were
long-lasting fevers and sickly color,” tomatoes “are dangerous and harmful,” their odor alone bringing about “eye diseases and headaches.” The reason was that they quickly putrefied in the body, causing all sorts of “ill effects.” And as if this were not bad enough, the nightshade family included plants like henbane, belladonna, and mandrake, all of which were thought to have potent magical and hallucinatory powers. Figure 4 You say tomato; I say tomatillo: frontispiece (left) and illustration
pleasure, so just as in the botanical gardens, there was always a place for “exotics.” Consequently, this is where the new American plants were first observed and “experienced,” and it was in such gardens that tomatoes—like maize, potatoes, tobacco, and American beans—were grown before they were cultivated as crops in open fields. And this point brings us back to Cosimo de’ Medici’s tomatoes. Cosimo’s Spanish links, through marriage, may have been the source of his tomatoes. His wife, Eleonora