The relationship between Pellegrino Artusi and food has always been a matter of study. We know everything about this relationship, thanks to Artusi’s masterpiece “Science in the kitchen and the art of eating well”.
Yet, the role that wine played in the life of the Forlimpopoli restaurateur is not well-known.
Thanks to Casa Artusi, a center of gastronomic culture dedicated to Italian domestic cuisine, and to its scientific director Alberto Capatti, we could clear our head about Artusi’s thoughts and feelings towards oenology.
Artusi liked wine, despite the wine culture of that time was not as precise and sophisticated as today. In his Florentine period, he loved to receive the wine sent from Romagna, in particular from Bertinoro, a small village in the Forlì hills. He also used to complain whether the product was not of excellent quality.
In Italy at the end of XIX century, ingredients were not considered as important as today, and even wine, in particular the one that was used for cooking, didn’t receive the proper attention.
In his recipes, the term “wine” was combined with simple adjectives that are nowadays trivial, like “good, excellent, dry, sweet”, this also in order not to embarrass the reader who would have struggled to find a label geographically distant from his own area.
White wine is remarkably present in Artusi’s recipes, mostly combined with strong flavour ingredients such as kidneys, pigeon and liver.
The use of Marsala and Madeira in recipes such as stew, truffle sauce with chicken and Baba, is also emphasised.
As Alberto Capatti points out, there are cases in which, speaking of wine, Artusi combines the generic name with a more specific one; this is the case of Moscato in “liver with white wine”, Vin Santo in “zabaione” and Champagne in “sautéed kidneys”.
A red wine is also mentioned, the Chianti, which is used in the preparation of a straberry-based dessert.
In the reprints after 1891, other wines are taken into account: this is the case of Sangiovese in the “Cacciatore” chicken and the exotic Claret Cup, a drink of British origin prepared with high quality red wines.
It is important to underline how Artusi’s thought on wine consumption is clearly expressed only in the 1899 reprint. Artusi replied to those hygienists who advised to only drink water during the dinner and reserving the pleasure of wine only at the end of the meal, with a sincere “Do it, if you have the courage; to me, this is too much to demand”.