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Cooking for the Pope

From The Paris Review

In a way, Michelangelo was lucky: his works were embellished, not destroyed, and he didn’t live to see the revision of The Last Judgment. Others faced the prospect of looking on as their lifetime’s work was erased from collective memory. One such unfortunate was . As head chef for popes and cardinals throughout the middle decades of the sixteenth century, he prepared unashamedly decadent banquets for the most powerful men on earth. For thirty years, his art embodied the thrilling, brief moment when the papal court was one of the world’s leading patrons of artistic expression and intellectual enquiry. But no sooner had he hit his peak than he was forced to lay down his ladle: reform had gripped the Vatican.

Bartolomeo Scappi, the cook for PopesRealizing that his life’s work would soon be only a memory lingering on the taste buds of a chosen few, in the last years of his life he recorded his genius in Opera dell’arte del cucinare. Published in 1570, the year of Scappi’s seventieth birthday, it was the world’s first illustrated cookbook, a colossal nine-hundred-page tome that includes a thousand recipes and serves as a treatise on cooking as an art form, a courtly pursuit, and a domestic science. It’s virtually the only record of Scappi’s existence; a fragmentary account of his lifelong enchantment with food, and a veiled lamentation that the old sensibility of sensory delight was being mashed to tasteless pulp under the weight of puritanism.

Scappi was born to modest circumstances around the turn of the sixteenth century, probably in Dumenza, a tiny town about forty miles north of Milan. At the time, medieval tastes still dominated elite dinner tables. In the Ancient world, the cuisine of the Mediterranean, based on bread, oil, and wine, was held up as a marker of its innate superiority over the Germanic peoples, with their supposedly barbaric fare of meat, milk, and beer. After the fall of Rome, the two traditions slowly merged until, in the late Middle Ages, the food served on the tables of the mighty across Europe was broadly similar: heavily spiced sweet-and-sour combinations, given layers of earthy complexity with great heaps of garden herbs. Many of the dishes Scappi chose to record in his magnum opus retain that sensibility, such as his recipe for an omelette made with pig’s blood goat cheese, spring onion, cinnamon, clover, nutmeg, marjoram, and mint—the kind of concoction that would nowadays be considered inedible just about anywhere on earth. Yet, among these forbidding relics of the medieval world, the Opera abounds with innovation that put cooking—perhaps for the first time—on a plinth next to the other creative arts.

Stimulated by discovery and innovation, the young cook developed a culinary identity that embraced the whole of the Italian Peninsula at a time when the notion of an Italian cuisine was as distant as the notion of an Italian nation. The Opera overflows with references to a Bolognese sauce for this, a Genoese garnish for that, or a delicious dessert known and loved by the people of Padua but virtually secret from anyone else. It suggests he traveled a lot with the express intention of trawling markets, speaking to traders, and experimenting with every new ingredient that came his way. Though he hardly ever refers to something as “Italian,” in a rudimentary way Scappi’s recipes inadvertently assemble the nation that had yet to be made, sitting side by side dishes from the Veneto to the Kingdom of Naples in a single, sumptuous meal. This roving palate also encompassed the New World, the flavors of which are on every page of the Opera—especially sugar, which features in something like 90 percent of its recipes, including as a pizza topping, along with pine nuts and rosewater.

It was never enough for Scappi to please diners: he set out to amuse, astonish, and confuse them with vast menus of pungent flavors and retina-searing colors, presented in displays more akin to a performance art piece than a dinner party. His banquets were the talk of royal and ecclesiastical courts throughout Christendom; one of them comprised hundreds of dishes, including seventy-seven different desserts and edible statues of weird beasts from the Orient, Greek gods, and cavorting nymphs. Once their bellies had been filled, guests were presented with posies of silk flowers attached to stems of pure gold. Scappi specialized in elaborate visual jokes, such as salmon sculpted into the form of a glazed ham or a goat’s head, and everything was served on highly polished tableware of silver, gold, and exquisite Maiolica. Decorous restraint was not to be found in his kitchen.

The tone for his service in the Catholic church had been set early in the sixteenth century by Pope Leo X, the aesthete son of the Medici patriarch, Lorenzo the Magnificent. Leo measured up to every stereotype of the Medici and the Renaissance papacy; even the Catholic Encyclopedia admits that he “looked upon the papal court as a center of amusement.” He inherited a strong treasury, stocked with a cash surplus of seven hundred thousand ducats; within two years every penny had gone. He blew a hundred thousand ducats on his first day, celebrating his investiture with a spectacular fireworks display and an indulgent feast before retiring for the night with his lover Alfonso Petrucci, whom Leo soon appointed Cardinal of Siena. His reign was an eight-year whirl of spending and sensuousness, during which he also sponsored dozens of artists and inquiring minds.

It was in Leo’s banquets that these dual turbines of his persona—debauched spendthrift and sophisticated patron—most powerfully coalesced. Cardinals arrived with courtesans in tow; young naked men emerged from giant puddings; nobody rose the following morning without a sore head. To his supporters, these banquets were an example of the best of the new papacy, celebrating the glory of God in all his forms. To his critics—and there were vast numbers of them—the bacchanalia showed that the Protestants had a point. A Venetian ambassador recorded a sixty-course meal that featured monkey brains, parrot tongues, Turkish fish and wines and fruits from all across the Mediterranean. More astonishing was Leo’s supposed rock-star insistence that all the empty silverware be tossed out the window at the end of each course. An official more sensitive to his Holiness’s mounting debts apparently arranged to have nets fixed beneath the windows to save them platters from the Tiber.

The grim truth of Chinese factories producing the west’s Christmas toys

From the Guardian

An investigation with the US-based NGO China Labor Watch reveals that toys including Barbie, Thomas the Tank Engine and Hot Wheels were made by staff earning as little as 86p an hour.

Overtime can run to nearly three times the legal limit. In some factories – including one producing Happy Meal toys for McDonald’s from the new DreamWorks movie Trolls – that means some are on 12-hour shifts and have to work with hazardous chemicals.

According to China Labor Watch, the world of toys may be heaven for children, but it is a world of misery for toy factory workers.

The group’s founder and executive director, Li Qiang, said: “We can’t tolerate that children’s dreams are based on workers’ nightmares, and we must fight against the unfair oppression of workers who manufacture toys.”

Undercover investigators infiltrated four factories, and the group shared wage slips and pictures with the Observer to support their findings.

The investigators said that they found workers making toys in factories supplying Disney, Mattel, Fisher-Price and McDonald’s who reported having to do more than 100 hours of overtime a month – nearly three times the legal limit in China.

A panel gives 17 reasons Robin Camp shouldn’t remain a judge

An interesting read on Robin Camp’s bias against sexual violence as a judge.

The three judges and two lawyers on a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry committee have unanimously concluded that Justice Robin Camp is unfit to remain on the bench, after his conduct in a rape trial gave him a national reputation as the judge who asked a sexual assault complainant why she couldn’t keep her knees together.

Their recommendation now goes to the full Canadian Judicial Council, who will pass its own recommendation on Camp’s fate to federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and a possible parliamentary vote. Judges who get this far toward losing their jobs sometimes resign before being pushed, but Camp’s only comment Wednesday, through a lawyer, was that he “is grateful to the inquiry committee for its thorough consideration of the evidence and his submissions.”‘

The panel’s consideration went well beyond the “knees together” comment. There were several remarks the judge made in a 2015 Calgary sexual assault trial that drew complaints from legal experts, the public and Alberta’s justice minister. In the first case of its kind, this committee effectively sketched out limits on what is acceptable or unacceptable to say from the bench when conducting such a trial. Much of what Camp said fell outside those limits, and peddled long-discredited myths about rape and sexual assault victims, the two men and three women on the committee concluded.

The inquiry concluded that 17 of the 21 allegations were fully substantiated, while another two were partly substantiated. The panelists wrote in their report that his misconduct severely damaged public confidence in his role as an impartial jurist, and that remedial education he was receiving couldn’t offset that damage.

If you read all of this comments, it reminded me of what I was taught growing up and that is good girls don’t get raped and that it is the women’s fault for being drunk, dressing provocatively, or list your own reason… it was the women’s fault.

It’s discouraging to think that a judge of all people would act this way but it’s encouraging that people are finally standing up to it.

How we talk about sexual assault online

We need a more considered approach to using social media for social justice, says writer and activist Ione Wells. After she was the victim of an assault in London, Wells published a letter to her attacker in a student newspaper that went viral and sparked the #NotGuilty campaign against sexual violence and victim-blaming. In this moving talk, she describes how sharing her personal story gave hope to others and delivers a powerful message against the culture of online shaming.

Call It What It Is: Rape

From the New York Times’ Public Editor

The state of Montana doesn’t often make the national news. But it did recently when a judge there sentenced a man to just 60 days in jail after he repeatedly raped his 12-year-old daughter. In the three weeks since the sentence was issued, over 80,000 people have signed an initiative seeking to have the judge impeached.

The New York Times’s Express desk caught up to the news on Friday, but it put a headline on its story that drew its own protests: “Montana Judge Criticized for 60-Day Sentence for Man Who Has Sex With His Preteen Daughter.”

In the view of many Times readers, that was a poor attempt to sum up the story. Among them was Elizabeth DeHoff, who homed in on the problem with the headline:

“Has Sex With”? We have a word for “sex with a preteen.” That word is “rape.” This man committed incest as well, but incest (while still a crime) can be consensual when both parties are adults. Children cannot consent to any kind of sex. Newspaper headlines that fail to take note of that fact contribute to rape culture — perhaps not as directly as this judge did when he essentially let the rapist off the hook, but contribute they do. (I should know, having worked as a newspaper copy editor for many years.) Perhaps if the judge himself had thought of the defendant as a rapist, he would have handed down a more appropriate sentence.

DeHoff, of Littleton, Colo., articulates well the concerns of many of the readers who emailed me on Friday. Editors were clearly struggling with the headline, changing it five times over the course of the day. About three hours after the initial headline went up, a new one was put on the story, getting a little closer to the mark, but clunky: “Montana Judge Criticized for 60-Day Sentence for Man for Incest With Daughter, 12.” Finally, after three more tries, the headline read: “Montana Judge Is Criticized for 60-Day Incest Sentence.” (Still later, the headline was changed again, to “Outrage Follows 60-Day Sentence in Incest Case Against Father of Girl, 12.”)

Christy Clark: When I was 13, a man suddenly jumped out and grabbed me off the sidewalk

In the National Post the Premier of British Columbia tells a story that is all too real to many women.

Governments almost never consider bills introduced by the Opposition. There are a lot of reasons for that — some good, some not so good — but it’s a long, unfortunate tradition in Canada’s notoriously partisan parliaments.

In B.C., we broke from that tradition.

Earlier this spring, the Greens introduced a bill that would set clear guidelines for sexual assault and misconduct at all public post-secondary institutions in B.C. I happened to be reading it during Question Period when I was surprised with a question about whether or not we would pass it.

As I got up to answer, I decided that our government would pass the legislation. I knew it was the right thing to do.

Why? It’s about changing the environment in which post-secondary students spend most of their time, and providing more support for victims of sexual assaults and sexual violence on college and university campuses. It speaks to the large number of women and men who stay silent about their experiences.

As I sat in my chair on the floor of the legislature, it struck me: I knew all too well why women stay silent. For over 35 years, I’ve been one of them.

I grew up in suburban Burnaby, the youngest of four kids in a community where it seemed like there were four children in every house. The road up the hill was teeming with kids walking to school, and then back home for lunch at noon.

In 1978, nobody drove anybody anywhere. You either hoofed it, or when you were old enough, took a bus.

It was back in the day when there were lots more kids than parents around. The days before chronic over-scheduling, when kids were allowed to waste time and wander.

I don’t remember everything from my youth, but I do remember all of the sexual advances from strangers: getting flashed, groped, spied on. Things that no person should experience, let alone a young girl or teenager.

Most of all, I remember the time a stranger pulled me off the sidewalk into the bushes. There was no doubt in my mind that he wanted to hurt me.

I’ll never know what might have happened. What I do know is that I never told anyone about it.

It was a sunny day, and I was walking to work at my first job. A man suddenly jumped out, grabbed me and pulled me out of sight into a deep copse of shrubs.

He didn’t say anything. I don’t even remember what he looked like.

I remember wondering where he had come from, and why I hadn’t seen him. And I remember being very scared.

Luckily, it didn’t last long.

When he pulled me down the little slope, it must have shifted him off balance. He loosened his grip for a moment, giving me a chance to wriggle away, clamber a few feet forward, and get out of the bush.

Once I got out into the sunlight, I ran like the wind.

When I got to my restaurant job, overflowing with relief that I was safe, I stopped outside to catch my breath. Then I went in, put on my apron, and got to work.

I never told anyone. Not about this or any of the other frightening things of a sexual nature that happened to me as a child or a teenager. For 35 years, it’s as though they never happened.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve shared this story with female friends and colleagues. Almost every single one of them also had a story. Like me, none of them had said a word.

That’s why the stories of so many women who stay silent have struck me so deeply. Many of their stories are much worse; horrifying events will take years of determined effort to heal. Nonetheless, many of us share something in common: we have never spoken about it, not to the authorities, or our parents or spouses.

I don’t claim to speak for all women in explaining why I didn’t tell, but for me, as a child and then a teenager, I was ashamed. It made people uncomfortable. I suppose I felt that if I hadn’t been physically hurt, people would think I was self-absorbed, overly upset about something that was just part of life for my half of humanity.

I told myself: Get over it. Bad things happen. It was trivial.

Sexual violence is common. Unfortunately, so is staying silent about it. Our silence makes it easier for those who wish to harm us. We don’t share our stories, we don’t think anyone would care much if we did, and then we live with the warped impression that we are alone in our fear and shame.

I’m not speaking out for sympathy; I don’t need it. I am speaking out because as Premier of British Columbia and B.C.’s first elected female premier, I am privileged to have a public platform.

I want women who have never said anything about sexual violence in their lives to know they are not alone.

Shame is painful. It’s also pervasive and isolating, but the capacity to survive and heal is achievable through the sharing of our experiences. Let’s build a community where women and men who have dealt with sexual violence can feel safe and comfortable talking about it. Let’s build strength in numbers. Let’s help the institutions where we work, go to school and live our everyday lives, understand the breadth of this problem.

Let’s get to work on addressing it.

You know what bothers me the most about what happened to 13-year-old me? Not knowing if the man who pulled me into the bushes kept going until he caught a girl who couldn’t get away.

I wish I’d had the courage to say something then. I do now.

High incidence of unreported cases of rape, sexual assault continues to plague Guyana

From the Kaieteur News

A high incidence of unreported cases of rape and sexual assault continues to haunt Guyana. This is according to information provided by the United States Department report on human rights for 2015.

In a detailed document, the US government outlined a large number of cases of rape and other forms of sexual assaults are unreported to authorities, most likely due to fear of stigma, a lack of confidence in authorities, retribution, or further violence.

The report noted that the law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape; successful prosecution of cases of rape was infrequent.

“Based on media reports and commentary from Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), a high incidence of rape and sexual assault was not reflected in official statistics.”

According to the document, the authorities received 233 reports of rape last year but only 36 persons were charged. The US government also highlighted the court backlog on tackling cases of sexual violence.

Understanding PTSD’s Effects on Brain, Body, and Emotions

PTSD disrupts the lives of average individuals as well as combat veterans who have served their country. The person experiencing the trauma often then impacts the lives of his/her family, friends, and workplaces. PTSD does not distinguish between race, age or gender and often goes undiagnosed. Even with proper diagnosis, many individuals do not know where to turn to get help. Society needs to understand the aftermath of trauma especially combat trauma and how to prepare for warriors when they return home.