Some called him a glutton, while others considered him a gourmet. However you look at it, Gioachino Rossini was the undisputed king of the dinner table, and he knew it. Apparently, he cried only three times in his entire life. Once when his first opera bombed; the second time when he heard Paganini play, and the third time when sailing to a picnic lunch and seeing a turkey stuffed with truffles fall overboard.
Rossini considered eating the most admirable occupation, and he philosophized that “appetite is for the stomach what love is for the heart.” It’s hardly surprising therefore that cooks and chefs dedicated various culinary creations to him, and today there are more than a hundred dishes bearing the tag “alla Rossini.” Eating, loving, singing, and digesting are, according to Rossini “in truth, the four acts of the comic opera known as life, and they pass like the bubbles of a bottle of champagne. Whoever lets them break without having enjoyed them is a complete fool.”
Gioachino Rossini: “Di Tanti Palpiti,” Tancredi
Supposedly, Rossini already enjoyed the taste of the wine served at Mass as a young boy, and he was seemingly more interested in a new recipe for a salad than in the accounts of the opening night of his Barber of Seville. The invention of the famous “Tournedos Rossini” has become an urban legend and supposedly took place in the Café Anglais in Paris. With Rossini constantly interfering in the preparation of his meal, the chef finally had enough and challenged the composer. Rossini is supposed to have said, “So, turn your back,” and that’s how the dish got its name.
During his time in Paris, Rossini struck up a friendship with Antonin Carême, the culinary genius of the century, who spoke of Rossini as “the only one who has truly understood me.” Rossini even contemplated going to America, but only if Maestro Carême would accompany him. Food was just as important to Rossini as music. And it seemingly informed many of his most famous compositions. Stendhal reports that the aria “Di Tanti Palpiti” from Tancredi was known throughout Europe as the “rice aria.” And the reason behind that specific foodie nickname? Rossini composed the aria while waiting for his risotto to cook.
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