Vincenzo Corrado, "The gallant cook" and vegetarian cuisine

by Francesco Li Volti

The Neapolitans who lived between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries could not fail to know the work of chef Vincenzo Corrado "The gallant cook". A haute cuisine manual, a revolutionary text that will forever change the tastes and habits of all the citizens of Naples, from the poorest to the nobles. In chapter XIV the big news: for the first time we talk about vegetarian recipes.

Vincenzo Corrado

Vincenzo Corrado was not Neapolitan but Apulian, of Oria, in the province of Toasts. Fatherless, he was born in 1736 and at the age of 38, he settled in Naples, where he resided for over fifty years, teaching the French and Spanish languages to the children of the city's aristocratic families, simultaneously publishing many of his works that gave him success and notoriety. The Prince of Francavilla attributed the job of "Head of Mouth Services" at the home of Cellamare Palace. Here his palate refined, he studied foods and courses and gave birth to culinary creations so incredible that even the people became aware of them.

Corrado was an unconventional chef, an innovator of haute cuisine. Always dedicated to pleasing the noble guests of the Palace, he became famous for its pomp and spectacular banquets. In fact, during the dinners, the chef was able to set up huge tables with the help of 100 people under his orders. During meals it was almost mandatory that a jester also entertain the guests. Chef Vincenzo Corrado died at the age of 100, respected and loved by everyone. He concentrated all his strength to improve the tastes and flavors of the Neapolitans and he succeeded, introducing coffee, tomatoes and potatoes into his recipes. Products that only a talented precursor could cook.

Vincenzo Corrado, "Il cuoco galante" e la cucina vegetariana

The Gallant Cook: A Revolutionary Handbook

Vincenzo Corrado was the first Neapolitan author of an organic gastronomy manual. His treatise "The Galant Cook" appeared in Naples in 1773, he did not oppose prejudicial to the French gastronomic lexicon at that time dominant, but on the whole he remained faithful to the traditional practice of Italian cuisine, and in particular Neapolitan, revealing the effort of wanting to integrate foreign cuisines with the local one, using of a simple, concise and comprehensive writing.

The subject matter of the manual is given in chapters of a certain breadth, each dedicated to a topic (soups, domestic and wild meats, fish, eggs, dairy products, vegetables, pies, sweets, flavors, preserves) in turn divided into short paragraphs in which the ways of cooking food.

"The gallant cook" had great success as evidenced by the numerous editions and reprints (six) that reached the mid-nineteenth century. In particular, it is the first recipe book in which tomato is used: ben There are 28 recipes present, including stuffed and au gratin tomatoes. For the simplest dish of all, on the other hand, a pasta and tomato, we will have to wait for Ippolito Cavalcanti's recipe book of 1837 to be able to read how to cook "vermicelli co le pommadoro”(Treatise on theoretical and practical cuisine). In short, an original and extraordinary text that will find something new in chapter XIV: Vincenzo Corrado in fact recommends vegetarian cuisine and speaks of it as a cuisine for nobles. What will it refer to? Let's find out together.

Vincenzo Corrado, "Il cuoco galante" e la cucina vegetariana
Vincenzo Corrado's credential of good taste

The first recipe book for vegetarians

Convinced of the validity of the principles of the Enlightenment marked by rationalism and a greater respect for nature, Vincenzo Corrado thought of interpreting this philosophy in a food key and, in contrast to the very elaborate and complex classic cuisine at the time in vogue, he proposed a more simple and light based on the products offered by nature. Pythagorean or herbaceous food. For the use of nobles and men of letters is the title of the work of the Apulian chef Vincenzo Corrado published in 1781 in which they are described 60 vegetarian recipes. The reference to Pythagoras is a must.

In the XV book of "The metamorphoses" Of Ovid, we know how Pythagoras “was the first to blame that animals were being prepared on the tables; first, but remained unheard, he opened his mouth to this speech full of wisdom: "Avoid, mortals, to contaminate the body with nefarious food. There are cereals, fruits that bend the branches with their weight and turgid bunches of grapes on the vines. There are tasty herbs and others that can be made more pleasant and tighter with cooking. And then there is no denying the milk or honey which retains the scent of thyme. The earth supplies you with every good thing to feed you in profusion and offers you banquets without the need for killing and blood". (Ovid, Metamorphosis, XV, vv. 72-82).

To be honest, the chef of Palazzo Cellamare was not the first ever. Antonio Cocchi he had been interested in the therapeutic purposes of vegetarian nutrition in his "Of the Pythagorean food for the use of medicine" in 1743.
Vincenzo Corrado, on the other hand, is interested in giving vegetables, seeds and roots a food tone for gourmets, suitable for both royal banquets and social occasions, depriving it of that austerity to which, instead, Pythagoras adhered to.

The vegetarian choice of Pythagoras was known through Ovid, who in the fifteenth book of "The metamorphoses"He had narrated how the Master" was the first to blame the fact that animals were prepared on the tables; first, but remained unheard, he opened his mouth to this speech full of wisdom: "Avoid, mortals, to contaminate the body with nefarious food. There are cereals, fruits that bend the branches with their weight and turgid bunches of grapes on the vines. There are tasty herbs and others that can be made more pleasant and tighter with cooking. And then there is no denying the milk or honey which retains the scent of thyme. The earth supplies you with every good thing to feed you in profusion and offers you banquets without the need for killing and blood". (Ovid, Metamorphosis, XV, vv. 72-82).


Instead, the Pythagorean food is stripped of any ethical value with Corrado: the gastronome speaks of it as a recent trend, while underlining how "Herbaceous foods are more suited to man, so most naturalists are inclined to believe that man, of course, is not carnivorous”, And praising the foresight of the Italians who, among the first, have resumed observing with commitment the“ Pythagorean laws ”.

Some vegetarian recipes

In reality, this is not a very strict vegetarianism: In the recipes, meat broths are used, even if mainly white meat, but also offal, marrow, animal fats. And of course the foods are anything but vegan: cream, butter, milk, cheese and eggs are present everywhere.

Vincenzo Corrado organizes the recipes by type of vegetable even if there are no doses or precise indications, only a list of possible methods of preparation.
Trying to browse, we find some that are still interesting today, others that have remained practically unchanged, others that recall Arab or Central European cuisine, with some impressive touches of modernity.

Almost every fruit has a soup among the possible uses. Peaches, pitted, are even cooked in veal stock, or in butter and then served with Parmesan. Interesting the pea gnocchi: the legumes, first cooked in the broth, are then pounded with Parmesan, ricotta, eggs and nutmeg to form with this mixture some gnocchi to be floured, boil briefly in the broth and serve seasoned with butter and Parmesan.
Tomatoes, entered not long in the culinary use, among the many suggested uses are also stuffed with rice. Cooked with milk, butter and cinnamon and mixed with egg yolks. Only, once filled, they are floured and fried in lard, then accompanied with cream. Not quite as light a diet as you might think.

Bibliography:

The gallant cook, Vincenzo Corrado, Grimaldi & C, 2013

Neapolitan cuisine, Jeanne Carola Francesconi, Grimaldi & C, 2012

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