Ezra Pound: Spaghetti with Pancetta, Sage and Fried Egg

Exra Pound: Spaghetti with Sage, Pancetta and Fried Egg

Has it really been over a year since I’ve posted a pasta recipe? It seems impossible to believe since, for the first three-quarters of my life, dinner was always a delicious mess of noodles, covered with enough sauce and parmesan to make any Italian blush. Besides satisfying all my cravings (carbs, cheese, twirling things on a fork), spaghetti was also economical, making it my go-to dinner party dish in college. Dress it up with some fancy cured meats and call me the poor man’s Lidia Bastianich (emphasis on poor).

But that was only a blip in pasta’s long history of feeding starving scholars—including, at the turn of the 20th century, London’s literary elite. When Ezra Pound arrived in 1908, he fell in with a group of writers whose weekly meetings in Soho Square involved as much spaghetti as books. Organized by the poet T.E. Hulme at a local restaurant, the salon was so known for its pasta-and-wine menu that the poet Louis Zukofsky, working on an analysis of the Cantos for the literary crowd, told Pound, “This should make matters simpler for the spaghetti eaters.”

Pasta became art, and art became pasta. In his 1918 collection Pavannes and DivisionsPound criticized a sculpture called Figure Representing Aspiration with a reference to his diet. “I never saw aspiration looking like that,” he wrote. “But I have seen spaghetti piled on a plate and the form was decidedly similar. A great deal of ‘representational’ sculpture is, in form, not unlike plates of spaghetti.” He would know.

When Pound moved to Italy, the Soho habits stuck—both the spaghetti and the wine. He commiserated with his writer-friends back the States, who were suffering under the yolk of Prohibition.”I go for days, at times even weeks (not probably very plural) without likker,” he wrote to H.L. Mencken in 1928, “but shd. hate to feel I had to square the cop or the local J.P. every time I wanted to … have a little rosso with my spaghetti.”

Of course, Pound’s Italian fascism is more well-known than his Italian diet. But even after he was arrested for treason and shipped back to the U.S., his meals weren’t much different from his London salon days. “We always have pasta & some Green pea army soup in the house,” he wrote to his wife. Cheap, or literary? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Spaghetti with Sage, Pancetta and Fried Egg RecipeSpaghetti with Sage, Pancetta and Fried Egg RecipSpaghetti with Sage, Pancetta and Fried Egg Recipe

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Gabriel García Márquez: Lobster Tail with Spaghetti and Bread Crumbs

In the pantheon of great literary friendships – Kerouac and Ginsberg, Emerson and Thoreau – Gabriel García Márquez and Fidel Castro isn’t a wildly popular pair. What does the master of magical realism have to chat about with the Cuban president? And who said Castro is literary, anyway?

Well … Márquez did. “It may not be widely known that Fidel is a very cultured man,” he told Playboy. “When we’re together, we talk a great deal about literature.” And when they met for the first time in 1977, Castro and Márquez discovered another shared bond: They were both seafood fiends. What began as a diplomatic exchange about Angola turned into a lengthy conversation about lobster recipes. The same thing happens when my family starts talking politics at the table; we end up retreating to a common ground and asking what’s for dessert.

It was the beginning of a culinary kinship. Over the next few years, they rhapsodized over shrimp. Their dinner menus were odes to the sea. When a Cuban chef who frequently cooked for the high-powered pair published a book, he included the recipes he associated with them: turtle soup for Castro, and lobster for Gabo.

Although Castro’s fondness for spaghetti threatened to eclipse his shellfish infatuation (“Fidel is still doing spaghetti,” Márquez sighed in an article in 1985), he knew what he wanted where seafood was concerned. “It’s best not to boil shrimp and lobsters, because the boiling water weakens the substance and flavor and makes the meat a little bit tough. I like to broil them in the oven or grill them. … For condiments, just butter garlic and lemon. Good food is simple food.”

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