as all good Italians do


Tucked in among the many gems—culinary, historical, literary, religious, and otherwise—stashed throughout Gillian Riley’s new Oxford Companion to Italian Food is “The Pope’s Kitchen,” a luscious, whimsical sonnet by the nineteenth-century Roman poet Gioachino Giuseppe Belli, which I cannot bear to include here in anything but its entirety:

The cook wanted to show me,
this morning, all the stuff he bought
for the most holy kitchen. Kitchen?
Some kitchen! You’d think it was a sea-port.

Piles of things, pots and pans and cauldrons,
haunches of veal and beef,
chickens, eggs, milk, fish, veg, pork,
game and all kinds of choice cuts.

So I says: “Your Holy Father does himself all right!”
He says: “You’ve not seen the sideboard,
where praise be there’s as much again.”
I says: “Pardon me, mate!
There must be someone grand for dinner then?”
“Come off it,” he says, “the Pope always eats on his own.”

more from Bookforum here.