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I owe my history teachers an apology.. You tried your best to ignite even a glimmer of emotion in me for your subject, but I stymied you at every turn. Well into adulthood now, I’m reduced to making muttered comments that history is not my strong suit, when in fact, I made certain it was preordained.

Now, at this advanced age in my life, I’m looking into some ancient Italian recipes, and my research is taking me to some fascinating places I probably should have known about all along. For example, I’ve known-seemingly forever-that it was Caterina de’ Medici who taught the French to eat with a fork. But I recently stumbled onto some information about her other culinary contributions that I’ve found to be enlightening.

For readers who may also have been in the back of the classroom reading “Mad” magazine during the Renaissance, Caterina de’ Medici was one of those Medicis. You know; the ones from Florence. The same Medicis who had a second tale built onto the Ponte Vecchio so they could cross the Arno river without mingling with the hoi-paloi, even if they had to climb a set of stairs at each end.

Sometime around 1533, Caterina’s uncle, Pope Clement VII, arranged for her to marry one of King Francis’ kids, Henri, a.k.a. Henri of Orleans; later, Henri II, King of France. She was fourteen at the time.

It must have been tough going for a young lady who was, by-and-large ignored by the Royal Court. But it left Ms. de’ Medici with some time on her hands, and she seemed to use it productively. (Of course there was that tawdry business about the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, but that was later in life). When she wasn’t engaged in eating, say, a “ragoût of cockscombs, kidneys, and artichoke hearts,” she apparently spent a lot of time thinking about food. It goes without saying, that this qualifies her as my kind of Regent.

One of the foodstuffs she introduced to the French Court, was spinach. At this point, though, historians become vague. It seems that the French liked it well enough, but they weren’t bowled over. Of course, this was also a period in culinary history when the Royal Court was-literally-grappling with the notion of using silverware at dinnertime, so they probably can’t be faulted for being less than enthusiastic.

Also, as historian Brandon Case, of King’s College in Pennsylvania, writes, “other than [King] Francis I, Caterina had not a friend.” And elsewhere he writes that the Royal Court and French people at-large, referred to her as “the Italian woman.”

So when spinach started to appear on the menus at the Royal Chateau Fontainebleau, the diners started to refer to it, with some contempt, as being “like that Florentine.” Yet over time, “alla Fiorentina” seemed to change from the depreciative to the complimentary “Florentine-style.” History remains weak about whether Florentines in general ever had a strong appetite for spinach.

Today, when we go to a restaurant and order something “alla Fiorentina,” we expect that it will be served on a bed of spinach, or stuffed with spinach. And we’re content to reckon that we’re paying homage to the excellent people of Florence. But I submit that, in fact, we’re paying homage the woman who also introduced high-heeled shoes for ladies.

The next time I go to brunch, I reckon instead of ordering Eggs Florentine, I’m going to order “Eggs alla Caterina de’ Medici,” and see what happens. Nah, it’s probably too late in the game for that.

Skip Lombardi is the author of two cookbooks: “La Cucina dei Poveri: Recipes from my Sicilian Grandparents,” and “Nearly Italian: Recipes from America’s Small Italys.” He has been a Broadway musician, high-school math teacher, software engineer, and a fledgeling blogger. But he has never let any of those pursuits get in the way of his passion for cooking and eating. Visit his Web site to learn more about his cookbooks. skiplombardi.com skiplombardi.com For comments or questions, e-mail at mailto:info@skiplombardi.com info@skiplombardi.com

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