Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Caterina de’ Medici's exotic food legacy

Caterina de’ Medici's exotic food legacy
The iconic Italian queen is credited for many cross-cultural introductions between France and Italy – including bringing cigars to the attention of Renaissance Florence. 
Despite initial questions over her potential to be a worthy queen, Catherine de' Medici's impact was widely felt in the palace kitchens, who had to learn new recipes from France.  Likewise, on her return to France, along with her she brought some classic Florentine dishes, introducing them to the French for the very first time.
With a small army of loyal chefs at her command, the palace kitchens began attempting French recipes, offering the queen the comforts of home, including duck a l'orange and French onion soup. She was also introduced to an invention then alien in France - the fork, and took to it instantly.
It was the quest to help the queen fall pregnant and create an heir that led to the most interesting dishes. After ten years of trying for a child, and being forced to eat supposedly medicinal foods such as herbal mash mixed with the urine of a pregnant donkey, it was the dish Il Cibreo that was finally credited with fertility success. An exotic stew made from chicken giblets, partridge and rooster beans, after being served the dish, the queen soon fell pregnant and went on to have nine children – all the princes and princesses Florence and France needed to continue their legacy.