Friday, 23 September 2016

Bona Sforza

This doesn't end well.
It is Polski Piątek, but this weekend I must not think about Polish stuff but about getting Benedict Ambrose and me to Norcia. This means immersing myself in Italian so that Italian, not Polish, first jumps to mind when I need to say something in Foreign. When I was in Belgium last year, I disgraced myself by answering various French and Flemish greetings and directions in Polish. English, aka Globish, would have been more appropriate.

However, it being Polski Piątek, I will bring your attention to an Italian-born Polish queen named Bona Sforza. She is often credited with Italian influences upon Polish cuisine. She is also blamed for the death of her daughter-in-law, the beautiful Barbara Radziwiłł, and was apparently herself poisoned---possibly by an agent of Philip II of Spain. As Philip was the devoutly Catholic king consort of Mary I of England, this rumour is eye-opening. Really, Wikipedia is dangerous--you click on one thing, and then you click on another, and then it is noon already.

According to this, Queen Bona was disgusted by 16th century meat-heavy Polish feasting habits and ordered her own court to adopt a sort of Nouvelle Cuisine--less food on the plate, but more expensive, better quality and including vegetables.  (NB Meat-consumption was, as usual, for the rich. According to Wiki, the medieval Polish poor subsisted mainly on grains--like kasza--and beans.)

The Italian queen had oranges, lemons, pomegranates, olives, almonds, broccoli and cauliflowers imported from Italy. The article says, however, that Italian recipes weren't widespread in Poland for another two hundred years. Meanwhile, long before Bona got to Poland, the sons of rich Polish families travelled to Italy to be educated, so it is likely they brought back at least "a stick of celery." (Wiki claims King Jagiello had plenty of vegetables at his court 80 years before Bona turned up.)

Apparently Bona hired Italian chefs, so continued eating Italian food through her married life. Meanwhile, I have wasted much time reading Wiki's list of regional Polish dishes, defeating the purpose of my Polish to Italian mental crossover. Here is an article about Umbrian cooking instead.


  1. So jealous you'll be in Norcia! Ok, not really, I'm happy for you and BA.
    You may experience some tremors. My parents were there this past week and got shook up a fair amount. My mother apparently rode out the worst of the shocks while drinking champagne with one of the monks, and they toasted afterwards!

  2. That's the spirit! It's Umbria, so there will be earthquakes, usually tiny ones.