Food for Thought
Mealtime With Giacomo Puccini

When Giacomo Puccini asked his librettist Luigi Illica around to his home, he issued the following invitation. “…In my house there are soft beds, chickens, geese, ducks, lambs, fleas, tables, chairs, guns, paintings, statues, shoes, velocipedes, pianos, sewing machines, clocks, a map of Paris, good oil, fish, three different qualities of wine (we don’t drink water), cigars, hammocks, wife, children, dogs, cats, rum, coffee, different kinds of pasta, a can of rotten sardines, peaches, figs, two outhouses, a eucalyptus, a well in the house, a broom, all for you, except the wife.”

Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Puccini

Puccini was a great lover of life, of music, women, fast cars and of food. And on various occasions, these interests seemingly collided. An urban legend tells that Mrs. Puccini was well aware that her Giacomo was extremely fond of the ladies. When she suspected that her betrothed was going out for an amorous adventure, she would prepare him a sumptuous dinner of all his favorite dishes and load them up with garlic! Giacomo could never resist Mama Puccini’s dinners, and just maybe, garlic on the breath is actually an aphrodisiac?

Giacomo Puccini: “Mimi at Café Momus,” La Boheme

As a music student in Milan, Puccini was constantly broke. He told his mother “In the afternoon when I have money, I go to the café, but many evenings I cannot go, since a punch costs 40 cents. I do not starve. I stuff myself with thin broth of minestrone and the stomach is satisfied.” So it’s no surprise that the Café Momus in Puccini’s La Boheme is undoubtedly the most famous of all operatic restaurants. An entire act takes place in or just outside this culinary establishment, bustling with street vendors flogging everything from dates and plums to oranges and toffees. And we even get an idea of the menu offered at Momus. Some customers are ordering beer and coffee, while Colline shouts for sausage appetizers. As for the main course, one fellow asks for roast venison, turkey, and dressed lobster alongside Rhenish and other table wines to wash it all down. Mimi settles for créme caramel, while Marcello has acquired a plate of stew.

Giacomo Puccini's La Bohème

Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème

Once Puccini had become fabulously rich, he formed the “Club Bohème” where he would cook pasta with eels for his friends or roast pheasant and partridge that he had shot at his lakeside house. After imbibing copious amounts of Toscano wine, Puccini would allegedly organize farting competitions!

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