Today we are launching a new feature about food and the Founder of the Passionists, St. Paul of the Cross. St. Paul of the Cross was a prolific letter writer. Thousands of his letters survive and in many of them, he mentions food. There are references to tuna and chocolate, chicken soup and pasta, cheese, and coffee. These tantalizing glimpses into one aspect of the everyday life of St. Paul of the Cross and the early Passionists fire the imagination.
In this series we’ll investigate how each food figured into the cuisine of mid 18th century Italy.
We’ll link to a recipe that is similar to one that Paul and the early Passionists might have used. We hope that visitors to our blog will share their own recipes and other insights into the “culinary world” of St. Paul of the Cross.
On June 26, 1762 St. Paul of the Cross wrote to his friend and benefactor, Thomas Fossi,
Last night Father Rector gave me your welcome letter, sent through the post from Signore Palomba from Civitavecchia, in which he tells me that he has in his possession a cask of fish in oil sent through your ceaseless charity. I have answered his letter and told him we received the two tuna.
Italy is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, so seafood has always been a vital component of the Italian diet. Catholics in Italy, including the early Passionists, observed many meatless days throughout the year, so fish was an important alternative source of protein.
In Paul’s time, wealthy people ate French food. Ordinary people like Paul and the early Passionists prepared food that we would find similar to modern Italian food.
Food preparation did not necessitate lengthy cooking times, elaborate equipment, or close monitoring by the cook. Fish was usually grilled or pan-fried and might be seasoned with readily available items such as lemon, rosemary, and olive oil. Paul of the Cross was born at Ovada in the Republic of Genoa. A favorite method of preparing fish there is to marinate it in olive oil and basil.
Here is a recipe that you can try for preparing tuna that Paul and the early Passionists might have found familiar. Buon appetito!
- -Sister Mary Ann Strain, CP