“These are my mother’s flavors.”

I found a lovely entry over at Dom Bettinelli‘s place.   My interest in doing honor to God’s creation through cooking well got my attention.

Enjoy!

Famed Italian chef, grandmother, cookbook author, restaurateur, and PBS cooking show host Lidia Bastianich was enlisted to cook not one, but three meals for Pope Benedict when he was in New York last week. When Lidia and her parents emigrated to the US forty years ago, they received a special Vatican stamp on their visas to allow them to come to America. And now she got to repay the favor with three amazing meals. Prior to the papal visit, she was not allowed to reveal the menu (lest terrorists spike every example of the ingredient in NYC?), but now it can be told.

Lunch on Saturday was apparently a light meal whipped up by Lidia and her assistants from what the nuns who serve the household of the Vatican’s observer to the UN had already gathered:  [Hang on to your hats…]

  • “Italian cherry tomatoes with celery and grana Padana alongside some fresh mache
  • “Asparagus soup thickened with boiled potato and sautéed asparagus [I am going to try this one.]
  • “Baked monkfish Sicilian-style with seasoned breadcrumbs
  • “Peach fruit tart that, according to Lidia, almost went directly from the oven to the table”

Dinner, meanwhile, was a more formal affair for 52 guests.

  • “String bean salad with sheep’s milk ricotta and pickled shallots and toasted almonds
  • “Ravioli with fresh pecorino and pears  [Few things are as good as pecorino and pears, any kind of cheese and pears.  There is even a proverb in Italian about that.]
  • “Risotto with nettles, [exquisite] fava beans, and ramps
  • “Whole roasted striped bass with boiled fingerling potatoes and a frisée salad
  • “Apple strudel with honey vanilla ice cream (with honeycomb intact)” [nice touch… honeycomb]

She notes that while it seems like a lot of food, each course was presented separately. [Of course!] In the article this comes from there’s a lot of nonsense about not making the Pope appear gluttonous or that he’s supposed to be too focused on spiritual matters to be concerned about whether the food tastes good. Bunk! Catholics are not Manicheans who reject the material world as if we’re all spirits.  [RIGHT! BUt you would not believe the stupid comments some people write to me or post elsewhere when I post about food!  o{]:¬) ] The Pope enjoys a good meal as much as the next guy and he’s quite able to voice that opinion. It is as much a virtue to enjoy the fruits of God’s good earth and the labor of man or woman as it is to fast from such bounty, each at its appropriate time.

Anyway, the third meal was Sunday dinner for the smaller papal entourage of 24:

  • “White and green asparagus salad with fresh 30-day pecorino, fava beans, and green chickpeas with lemon and olive oil  [Oh yes… fresh raw fava beans, cold white wine and pecorino… ]
  • “Agnolini (little flying-saucer-shaped pasta filled with roast meat that Lidia served because they look like hosts) in free-range chicken soup with grana Padana on the bottom of the bowl  [Remember that brasato I made a while back?  One of the readers suggested I make agnolotti from it.]
  • “Beef goulash made from Wagyu-style flat iron beef with a side of patate in tecia (pan-fried potatoes with bacon and onions that Lidia says remind her of hash browns) served with sauerkraut and sour cream
  • “Chocolate-hazelnut cake with “Tu Es” inscribed on it, [Nice touch!] topped by a two-foot-high marzipan mitre made by Bruno Bakery owner Bruno Settepani
  • “Apricot and ricotta crostata”

My favorite is probably the cake with “Tu es” and the mitre to form the image of “Tu es Pietro,” i.e. Christ’s message to St. Peter, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.”

[Here is the best part… it even choked me up when I read it!]

In the end, Lidia received the finest compliment possible from Pope Benedict after that last meal.

After the goulash, the pope said to Lidia, “These are my mother’s flavors.” Lidia said she almost cried when she heard this. All the wines, Lidia said, were selected by her son, Joe Bastianich, and came from the Bastianich vineyards in Italy.

One last tidbit: Joe Bastianich is Mario Batali’s partner in many of his New York restaurants and his wine shop.

"These are my mother’s flavors."

Ahhhhh…..

 

 

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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31 Responses to “These are my mother’s flavors.”

  1. Volpius says:

    “that he’s supposed to be too focused on spiritual matters to be concerned about whether the food tastes good. Bunk! Catholics are not Manicheans who reject the material world as if we’re all spirits.”

    Do these people think it’s Lent 365 days a year for the Pope? Easter is a time of feasting, there is reason Saints days are called feast days, he bible tells us there is a time for al things, if they want to be puritans then they should just go and be one, the Catholic Faith is a joyful faith. If God didn’t want us to enjoy food he would have made it all taste the same, good food gives glory to the Creator as does our enjoyment of it, providing it is not to excess, 5 course meals are the norm in Europe and are not excessive.

    And another thing we have no idea of the portion sizes so you cannot even really judge how much was eat.

    One question Father, the order of the course is different to what I am familiar with, I though it was normal to have the Fish course before the Meat course, is this wrong?

  2. Volpius: When was a meat course served before a fish course?

  3. tertullian says:

    “Joe Bastianich is Mario Batali’s partner in many of his New York restaurants and his wine shop.”

    Babbo is the real deal.

  4. Fabrizio says:

    “These are my mother’s flavors.”

    THE POPE saying such a thing after a fine meal…can’t get more Italian than that! No true Italian could avoid choking up at hearing these words. I can envision the sweetness in his eyes as he said that. This is the classic Italian compliment, and I am sure the Holy Father meant it. He said once that while he remained Bavarian to the core, he got Italianized after all these years, and that he is a fine gentleman and a sweet person needs no underlining.

    Anectodes like this one say more than a bunch of dusty tomes on why we are Catholics and not cathars. Who knows hom many Catholics realize the connection between Eucharist, Nuptial symbolism, Roman Liturgical traditions and the culinary excellence of Italy, in the image and likeness of the celestial banquet.

    Laudato sie, mi Signore, cum tutte le tue creature!

  5. Fabrizio says:

    “These are my mother’s flavors.”

    THE POPE saying such a thing after a fine meal…can’t get more Italian than that! No true Italian could avoid choking up at hearing these words. I can envision the sweetness in his eyes as he said that. This is the classic Italian compliment, and I am sure the Holy Father meant it. He said once that while he remained Bavarian to the core, he got Italianized after all these years, and that he is a fine gentleman and a sweet person needs no underlining.

    Anectodes like this one say more than a bunch of dusty tomes on why we are Catholics and not cathars. Who knows hom many Catholics realize the connection between Eucharist, Nuptial symbolism, Roman Liturgical traditions and the culinary excellence of Italy, in the image and likeness of the celestial banquet.

    Laudato sie, mi Signore, cum tutte le tue creature!

  6. Volpius says:

    Fr. John Zuhlsdorf: “Volpius: When was a meat course served before a fish course?”

    I was classing ravioli as a meat dish, is that wrong?

    It probably is now I think of it.

  7. Ståle Wilhelmsen says:

    Al contadino non far’ sapere
    quanto è buono il formaggio con le pere!
    :-)

  8. Geoffrey says:

    What a great post! Thank you, Fr. Z! :-)

  9. Ståle Wilhelmsen says:

    Volpius: The ravioli is a “primo piatto”, first course, and is served before either fish dish or meat dish. It isn’t counted as a “meat dish” proper, even if it contains meat. Same as Spaghetti Bolognese.

  10. Yes, I’m going for the asparagus soup.
    The ravioli sounds very tempting too.
    Roast sea bass : definitely not to be missed. There is (or was a few years ago) a trattoria in Trastevere which does very nice roast fish.
    Ah.. The apple strudel.

    This is one of the tastiest posts I’ve read.
    Frankly, I think I’d like to try everything.

  11. RBrown says:

    The ravioli not only isn’t un secondo piatto, but there is no meat in the recipe:

    * Ravioli filling: 3-4 Bartlett pears, peeled and cored (approximately 1 pound)
    * 3 Tablespoons mascarpone
    * 1 pound grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese (for stuffing ravioli)
    * 4 ounces aged grated Pecorino Romano cheese (to finish pasta)
    * 6 ounces butter
    * Black peppercorn, coarsely ground, to taste
    * Grated Pecorino Romano, for serving

    http://www.starchefs.com/chefs/LBastianich/html/ravioli_pear_pecorino_l_bastianich.shtml

  12. techno_aesthete says:

    Fr. Z., I am grateful that you posted this food related item. ;-) The Sunday dinner sounds wonderful. Mmmm! Regarding his compliment to Lidia – as Mayor Bloomberg said, Pope Benedict has touched the hearts of Americans.

  13. Hugh says:

    Mmmmmm! Now I want to be Pope!

  14. Volpius says:

    Ståle Wilhelmsen thank you for that I am not over familiar with Italian cuisine, something I hope to rectify in the future :)

  15. Lourdes says:

    Mrs. Bastianich’s restaurant “Felidia” is one of the best in New York.

  16. techno_aesthete says:

    RBrown, I think the dish in question was the agnolini, not the ravioli.

  17. Jayna says:

    Awwwwww! That’s the sweetest thing to say to someone about their cooking. And now I need to go eat something, this post has made me absolutely ravenous.

  18. RBrown says:

    RBrown, I think the dish in question was the agnolini, not the ravioli.
    Comment by techno_aesthete

    But there was no fish served after the agnolini.

    The original question was about serving meat before fish–Volpius considered the ravioli meat.

  19. CK says:

    That’s a big compliment! My husband made my year this Thanksgiving when he told me it was better than his mom used to make. (This only took 14 years!)

    Thanks for sharing.

  20. Pater, OSB says:

    Next time there is a blog-nic I wonder what the menu might be?

  21. This is a menu befitting a Pope! Sounds absolutely delicious. I hope the recipes show up later.

  22. techno_aesthete says:

    RBrown, “But there was no fish served after the agnolini.”

    Ha ragione. Mio sbaglio.

  23. Mary Rose says:

    Fr. Z, you will never hear a complaint from this Italian girl when it comes to talking about food! I am a “foodie.” I’m also a huge fan of movies about food: Babette’s Feast (so tender…), Big Night, (someday I will make a timbale), Under the Tuscan Sun, Mostly Martha, and my recent love – Ratatouille. (!)

    Food knits our hearts together. It will always be a part of community. So why not celebrate it with exquisite taste rather than a bag of McDonald’s? :-)

    I need to try that Pear and Pecarino deal. My great-grandfather used to soak peaches in wine. I never tried that either, but it sounds intriguing.

  24. prof. basto says:

    Great post, father. Thanks

  25. Joannes, peccator says:

    A far cry from St. John Mary Vianney’s boiled potato and bread, but not an extravagant, decadent menu, either — I don’t see truffles or hummingbirds’ tongues.

    Moderatio in omnibus, nonne?

  26. SuzyQ says:

    The asparagus soup sounds exquisite! Fr. Z: if you could post a recipe once you’ve tried it, that would be wonderful. I can follow a recipe but I’m no good at coming up with one on my own.

  27. Transitional Deacon says:

    I haven’t heard of many of the foods on the menu, though I do wonder if these menus sometimes aren’t just pretentiously worded versions of relatively normal foods.

  28. The poor guy has been trapped in Italy for decades – couldn’t someone have found a nice German-American cook?

    (not that I’ve minded being trapped in Rome for months this year myself, from a culinary point of view)

  29. Limbo says:

    Lydia is a wonderful cook, a devout Catholic and a delightful person.
    His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI being a man of excellent taste, a devout Catholic and delightful person would have appreciated every morsel of this wonderful menu, recognising it for what it was – A menu prepared by a gourmet fit for the table of the vicar of Christ !

  30. joe says:

    The part y’all are missing is the Wagyu (or, rather, “Wagyu-style”) flat-iron beef. This is a particularly delicious and — oddly enough, relatively affordable — part of the cow. Pretty much any butcher shop that carries this kind of beef will carry — or at worst, order without much difficulty — the flatiron cut.

    Ask me how I know,

    -J.

  31. joe says:

    P.S. Lidia’s “Becco” on W.46th St. (close to the Marquis) is probably the best value restaurant in NYC.