Ballerini's pre-renaissance Italian gastronomy & literature class is really exceptional. Using food as the focal point for deconstructing the layered history and cultural perspective of old world Italians, I am now certain that food is the secret to analyzing the motivations and spirit of any culture.
This week, Ballerini discussed a range of concepts, which I will break up into several different posts for your perusal, so keep checking back.
I never knew that Leonardo Da Vinci was a pronounced gourmet & vegetarian--scholars cite him as calling many of his colleagues "cannibals." The idea of provoking and enlisting the unnecessary suffering of animals was revolting to him and he spoke openly about this, most of the time ridiculed for it. If you look closely at his famous "Last Supper" painting, the only meat on the table is eel. Eel garnished with orange slices before the Lord to be precise. Why? I'm not so sure yet, I guess I'll find out next week. Contradictory? Perhaps. Provocative? Definitely.
Apparently, the Italian government has spent gagillions on the restoration of this painting, putting in excessive, criminal amounts of money to just keep it alive. Even during the 15th century, the painting had problems--cracking and falling apart just months after completion.
UCLA once had an original manuscript of Da Vinci sketches donated by oil tycoon and philanthropist, Armand Hammer. After Mr. Hammer's death, Bill Gates swooped in with lawyers and negotiated with the Hammer family to sell it to him, which in typical Bill Gates fashion, he got at all costs. Yeah... gross.