Can I cook like ... Casanova?
Giacomo Casanova’s favourite food was macaroni cheese. This came as something of a relief to me, because I’ve been on something of a losing streak in the kitchen recently and, no matter what, I know I can cook macaroni cheese. The anglicised version involves brief grilling, but in honour of Casanova I forego the grilling and allow the cheese to melt in the pasta. I use Grana Padano because, like Casanova, it hails from Venice. It is also on offer at my local supermarket.
But although macaroni cheese was Casanova’s favourite meal, and he loved food – by my count, mealtimes feature more frequently than women in his memoirs – it didn’t feature in his favourite mealtime: breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, even more so when you are shagging your way through 18thcentury Europe.
He generally started the day with freshly baked bread. This is easier if you have domestic servants, but I settle for baking mine the night before. Less easy are his preferred accompaniment: oysters. Casanova ate oysters like they were going out of fashion, slurping them down with every single meal. He is essentially responsible for the urban myth that they are an aphrodisiac.
I know very little about oysters, but I do know two things: that you aren’t supposed to eat them some of the time, and that this relates to whether or not there is an “r” in the month. What I cannot remember is whether to eat them when there is an “r” in the month, or when there isn’t. Readers with working calendars and modern dictionaries will know there is no “r” in May, and I reason that, as I have to eat the damned things anyway, I shouldn’t worry too much about whether this is a good or a bad thing.
I have never eaten oysters before – somehow, whenever they have appeared on a menu, it has always been alongside other things I would rather eat – and once I put aside my anxiety about whether or not this is a safe month to eat them, I find them slimy, salty, but curiously moreish. I can’t say they offset the macaroni cheese particularly well, though.