Pappa col Pomodoro, Wertmüller, Rota, Pavone, and REVOLUTION!

May 29, 2011

Last night, on a happy quiet Saturday evening at home, I used the leftover stale bread from Paolo’s birthday party to make one of my favorite summertime dishes, Pappa col Pomodoro — the famous tomato bread soup of Tuscany.

And what a wondrous dish this workaday dish is! A text that can be deconstructed linguistically, literarily, ideologically, and gastronomically in so many delicious ways — including the Marxist reading in the video above.

Piddling around the internets on a lazy Sunday morning (after scrambling some eggs the way Tracie P likes them and before diving into my Sunday workload), I came across this fantastic video of 60s Italian pel di carota (carrot top) Rita Pavone, the great Italian director Lina Wertmüller (the first woman to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar), and the Italian composer Nino Rota (considered by some the greatest film composer of all time).

But what’s truly remarkable about this clip — above and beyond the fact that it was created by three of the greatest names in Italian film and music — is the Marxist and Leninist rhetoric of the song lyrics, Pavone’s Bolshevik costume and choreography, and the set inspired by the Russian revolution.

I’ve translated the lyrics for you:

    Long live Pappa
    Col Pomodoro
    Love live Pappa
    It’s a masterpiece
    Long live Pappa
    Col Pomodoro

    The history of the past
    Has finally taught us
    That a hungry people
    Will make a revolution
    That’s the reason we the hungry
    Have battled
    And so buon appetito
    Let’s eat!

    A belly that grumbles
    Is the cause of the conspiracy
    It’s the cause of the struggle
    Down with the boss!
    The soup’s on!
    And so we’ll all sing
    No sooner said than done, we want
    Pappa with Pomodoro

There’s no doubt that the performance resonated with Tuscan audiences of the era, when Tuscany was one of the strongholds of the Italian Communist Party and — together with Emilia-Romagna — home to the largest Communist Party outside of the Soviet Union and China.

Berlusconi’s Italy is so ugly these days (did anyone follow the reaction to Berlusconi’s gaffe during his meeting with Obama during the G-8 gathering this week?). We often forget that there was a time in Italy not so long ago when a simple dish — one of its most proletarian — was inspiration for art and ideology by some of Italy’s greatest artists.


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