Poetry for Sunday: my favorite Pasolini (and Orson Welles)

May 24, 2009

The embedded video below is one of my all-time favorite movie clips. It’s from an episodic movie called RoGoPaG (1963), to which Pasolini contributed the segment La Ricotta. In Pasolini’s segment, Orson Welles plays an American director making a movie about the life of Christ in Rome.* It is simply brilliant, on so many levels (I love the music and the dancing). It is rivaled only by the sequence where Welles recreates Pontormo’s Deposition in the Church of Santa Felicita in Florence.

In the clip, Orson Welles reads a poem by Pasolini, “I am a force of the past.” In thinking about culinary tradition, pizza paired with wine, and the recent censoring of “ethnic” food in Italy, I realize that the poem is actually and entirely topical (even more so when considered in the context of the entire Welles sequence).

I am a force of the Past.
My love lies only in tradition.

Here’s an as-of-yet unpublished translation by the Italian translator I admire most, my friend Stephen Sartarelli, who has also translated the Montalbano detective series. I wrote to Stephen who graciously shared his excellent rendering.

I am a force of the Past.
My love lies only in tradition.
I come from the ruins, the churches,
the altarpieces, the villages
abandoned in the Appennines or foothills
of the Alps where my brothers once lived.
I wander like a madman down the Tuscolana,
down the Appia like a dog without a master.
Or I see the twilights, the mornings
over Rome, the Ciociaria, the world,
as the first acts of Posthistory
to which I bear witness, for the privilege
of recording them from the outer edge
of some buried age. Monstrous is the man
born of a dead woman’s womb.
And I, a fetus now grown, roam about
more modern than any modern man,
in search of brothers no longer alive.

Io sono una forza del Passato.
Solo nella tradizione è il mio amore.
Vengo dai ruderi, dalle chiese,
dalle pale d’altare, dai borghi
abbandonati sugli Appennini o le Prealpi,
dove sono vissuti i fratelli.
Giro per la Tuscolana come un pazzo,
per l’Appia come un cane senza padrone.
O guardo i crepuscoli, le mattine
su Roma, sulla Ciociaria, sul mondo,
come i primi atti della Dopostoria,
cui io assisto, per privilegio d’anagrafe,
dall’orlo estremo di qualche età
sepolta. Mostruoso è chi è nato
dalle viscere di una donna morta.
E io, feto adulto, mi aggiro
più moderno di ogni moderno
a cercare fratelli che non sono più.

A little Sunday poetry. Thanks for reading…

Buona domenica a tutti…

* Pasolini was a deeply religious man and he made a beautiful film about the life of Christ, Il vangelo secondo matteo (The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 1964).


The best pork store in New York (cast your pearls at this swine)

February 12, 2009

Of all the places on earth to open an Italian pork store, the Upper West Side is not the first that comes to mind. But, then again, stranger things have happened…

Two Saturdays ago, Tracie B and I had time for lunch in the City after an overnight layover in New York on our way to Paris and so we decided to experience celeb chef Cesare Casella’s new collaboration with the owners of Parmacotto, the Rosi family: Salumeria Rosi, on Amsterdam and 73rd, in the heart of the Upper West Side (not exactly known for its pork consumption).

For those of us who gave up buying and/or ordering sliced prosciutto and other Italian affettati in the city, our traif dreams have been answered: whether you stay to dine or you take out, the slicing at Salumeria Rosi is performed with a grace and precision worthy of Brescello’s favorite son (that would be Don Camillo to you laypeople). Even my previously favorite pork store, Faicco (on Bleeker in the heart of what was once Scorsese’s Little Italy), has too often dashed my dreams with ineptly sliced charcuterie (although the arancini there are still the best).

The mixed affettati platter (above, including speck, mortadella, and porchetta) was simply the best I have ever had outside of Emilia-Romagna.

Cesare’s leek torte was sublime, the crust flaky and light, the filling balanced with the savory and piquant flavors of the wintry allium porrum. It paired perfectly with an aromatic Müller Thurgau by Terlano.

It’s not easy to photograph eggs but I had to include my attempt at capturing the warm, pillowy mouthfeel of the scrambled eggs matched with crisp and slightly bitter ruchetta in the Pontormo salad inspired by the Renaissance master, who was obsessed with his diet, digestion, and the consumption of eggs — not to mention author of one of my favorite paintings, The Deposition in the church of Santa Felicita (pronounced feh-LEE-chee-tah) in Florence. Cesare created the dish many years ago for a story I worked on with Luigi Ballerini on Pontormo and his sometimes bizarre culinary habits.

The rigatoni were slightly overcooked but the guanciale in the amatriciana was entirely and decadently delicious. (Check out this old and fun post on the meaning and etymology of guanciale.)

Beyond the oxymoronic fact that it is located on the Upper West Side, one thing, among many others, that sets Cesare’s pork store apart from the traditional newyorchese temple to swine is the design by celebrated Italian production designer and Scorsese-veteran Dante Ferretti. The centerpiece is an Arcimboldo-inspired map of Italy, a beautiful expression of culinary anamorphism whereby every region is represented by its gastronomic tradition (it’s done in white stucco but Emilia has been adorned with polychromy). My skills as a photographer proved ill-suited when I tried to capture it in jpg: it spans the back wall and the ceiling. I won’t conceal that I found it to be wholly exquisite.

O Cesare, I cast my pearls at your swine!

Check out Tracie B’s ecstatic post Suino divino.


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