Can I cook like ... Casanova?

The Guardian - Feast - - News - Stephen Bush

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.

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