Curiosities – The poulterer who invented the ice-cream

Foto 5b toscanaRuggeri, poulterer by profession and cook in his spare time, was an unexpected candidate, definitely ignored by all other competitors for a contest, announced by Caterina de’ Medici, open to the best chefs of Tuscany. The subject was “the most singular dish ever seen”. Shyly and with embarrassment since he was not a professional cook, Ruggeri asked to take part to this particular contest. He had already in mind a specific idea: an icy small dessert made according to old, almost forgotten, recipes and a touch of imagination. Well, he was allowed to participate and his “sorbet” won over the judges, routed the other competitors and won! The judges said: “We have never tasted such a delicious dessert!”. And so the poulterer Ruggeri became famous in the entire region and everyone wanted him. Caterina de’ Medici was about to leave for France and marry Henry, Duke of Orléans and future king of France; she expressed the wish to bring with her, with the other cooks and confectioners, “the only Italian – she said – able to humble the French, at least in the kitchen!”. Ruggeri, whom in the meantime everyone wanted to prepare the lunches of the most famous people of that time, was literally “collected” by the soldiers and loaded onto the ship outbound for France. In Marseilles, during the Caterina’s wedding banquet, he presented his ice-cream to the French. The recipe: “ice with sugared and smelling water”. It was the year of grace 1533 and he was ordered to give free play to his imagination, in order to amaze the guests of the royal banquets. Banquet after banquet, Ruggeri started to give particular shapes to his ice-cream, with his recipe still secret, and to create real monuments in miniature. Caterina de’ Medici refused any precious presents and huge amounts of money to keep close Ruggeri. However for the little, ex poulterer fame and popularity became a hell! All cooks of the capital hated him; he was boycotted in any way, and a night he was even attacked, robbed and beaten! Scared, he decided to put the secret recipe of his invention in an envelop and sent it to Caterina, adding a farewell message saying: “with your permission I return to my chickens, hoping people let me eventually leave in peace and forget me. Please, be satisfied with tasting my ice-cream”. It thus fell to the cooks and confectioners among Caterina’s suite to spread the ice-cream all over the world. Ruggeri was not able to bear popularity and other people’s envy, he felt really better with his chickens…

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