Dave DeWitt

With wars among the city-states raging in early Renaissance Italy, the enigmatic genius Leonardo da Vinci was producing some of the most lavish theatrical productions and banquets Europe has ever seen in the Sforza Court in Milan, while personally living a nearly monastic life, eating the most basic vegetarian foods. Leonardo's food history is just a part of the fascinating and little known story of the origins of Italian cuisine. The tale begins in the early Renaissance with the first superstar chefs, Maestro Martino and Platina, whose cookbooks literally set the stage for the evolution of the cooking of Italy. Both of these cooks moved away from the use of imported spices in favor of local aromatic herbs. The introduction of new crops into Italy soon transformed the cuisine of the regions. Rice became risotto, durum wheat became pasta, and sugarcane became sugar and replaced honey, forever changing the nature of Italian sweets and desserts. Despite near starvation for the poor, the wealthy courts of the city states indulged themselves with fantastic feasts and elaborate spectacles. Leonardo produced The Masque of the Planets, a multimedia entertainment that made him famous all over Italy. After Columbus's first voyage, a second wave of new foods arrived in Italy. Maize (corn) became polenta, tomatoes changed the way pasta was eaten, and peppers eventually spiced up Italy's regional cuisines. The complete development and transformation of Italian cuisine is revealed in Da Vinci's Kitchen, including fascinating sidebars, Renaissance frustrations, original recipes from the masters of early Italian cooking, and some modern adaptations of these recipes, including Leonardo's own salad dressing. Part history, part biography, and part cookbook, this fascinating exploration of an as-yet unexamined facet of Leonardo da Vinci's life focuses on what and how he ate. Da Vinci lived to be 67-nearly twice the average life span at the time-and his longevity may well have been due to his diet, which is reconstructed here complete with his notes on ingredients, portions, cooking, drinking, and kitchen inventions. The great artist, scientist, and inventor was no slouch in the kitchen, having worked as a kind of theatrical caterer, producing feasts with extravagant menus for royalty. This book unlocks his cooking code and the food history of his day, bringing 30 recipes up to date, including an exotic saffron risotto with duck and mushrooms fit for a Medici.

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Da Vinci's Kitchen

A Secret History of Italian Cuisine