A Fork Goes from Tuscany to France
Caterina Maria Romula di Lorenzo de’ Medici was born in Florence, Italy on April 13th, 1519. At the time her family was the most important in Tuscany, and had been so for a long time. Since the Medicis were a family of fame, several well-known artist painted their portraits, and e.g. in the palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence Caterina could, as we still can today, admire portraits of her ancestors incorporated in the fresco “The Journey of the Magi”.
Benozzo Gozzoli painted the fresco between 1459 and 1461, and he also included his self-portrait. He is the guy with his name written around the rim of his cap.
In 1533, when Caterina was fourteen, she went to France to marry Henry, second son of King Francis I and Queen Claude of France.
In her luggage Caterina brought with her her own fork and spoon, enclosed in a box called a cadena.
This was something new for the French, but Caterina herself was well used to eating with a fork. By the 11th century, the table fork had made its way to Italy. Before that people were reliant on the spoon and knife as the only eating utensils, but most people ate their food with their hands, calling for a spoon only when needed.
The ancient Greeks used the fork as a serving utensil, but it was not commonly used as such in Western Europe until the 10th century.
Caterina became, under the gallicised version of her name, Catherine de Médicis, Queen consort of France as the wife of King Henry II of France from 1547 to 1559, but she did not have a happy marriage. Henry preferred his mistress Diane de Poitiers to Caterina.
When Henry died Caterina was thrusted into the political arena as mother of the frail fifteen-year-old King Francis II. When he died in 1560, she became regent on behalf of her ten-year-old son King Charles IX. After Charles died in 1574, Caterina played a key role in the reign of her third son, Henry III. He dispensed with her advice only in the last months of her life. Caterina died on January 5th, 1589.
I hope you now got inspired to use a fork – here is a recipe for a salad which includes some typical Italian ingredients which taste delicious together. The salad is named in honor of Caterina.
Insalata Caterina di Toscana
- Red onion
- Red cabbage
- Romaine lettuce
- 3 parts extra virgin olive oil
- 1 part balsamico vinegar
- Crushed garlic
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Wash the arugula and cut into smaller parts. Slice the onion into thin slices. Remove the outer leaves from the cabbage and use a cheese slicer to make thin slices. Wash and cut the lettuce.
Mix the dressing, add to the salad and toss.