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

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.

7 thoughts on “Pappa col Pomodoro, Wertmüller, Rota, Pavone, and REVOLUTION!

  1. Well Jeremy, we can count on you for digging out something that was lost in our subconciousness.
    But I feel very “pignola” and I think that your readers and followers need some explanetion.

    The video shown is out of the television serial called “Gianburrasca”, which was a famous children’s book written more or less a century ago.
    I am afraid it has nothing to do with the Italian _Communist Party but with the middle class life in Florence at the beginning of The Unità d’Italia.
    Gianburrasca is the nickname of a young boy that rebels against the formality of his family and class. Much more individualistic than the communist vision. In the case of the “pappa col pomodoro” it refers to the goodness of this dish compared to the terrible food served in the boarding school in which Giovannino Stoppani (the real name of Giamburrasca) has to stay for a while.
    When the serial was made, I think early Sixties, the RAI was dominated by the Cristian Democrats, so what you see as a expression of the Communist idea was really a way of pulling the leg of the Left.

    I apologize for my terrible spelling
    Nelle Nuvole

  2. @Tracie P I’m so glad you liked my Pappa recipe! Later this summer I’ll make a panzanella the way they showed me how to make it in Montalcino so many years ago.

    @Nelle Nuvole you are not “pignola” at all! And I am so glad to see you here! Thank you for the clarifications and I recognize that my Marxist reading of the text was a “deconstruction” and, no doubt, a stretch. I was unfamiliar with the “Giornalino di Gian Burrasca” and I stand corrected! Thanks for the insightful comment…

  3. I really enjoyed, history, food. Love that kind of stuff. Food is soooo controversial in Italy! Eavesdrop on any conversation for more than 5 minutes and you’ll hear something about what was for pranzo, what’ll be for cena, and what’s growing in the garden. At the parrucchierre nine out of ten women will be talking about food and the one who isn’t is probably reading a recipe.
    This tune (now that I know what it is) shows up on the show La Prova del Cuoco on Rai. A cooking show that is on …during lunchtime, of course!

  4. @Renaccio thanks for the kind words. There’s so much we can learn about humanity by reflecting on what we eat and drink, no? :) Thanks for stopping by.

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