Last Supper Menu revealed: mmm, delicious eels.


New research on Da Vinci's Last Supper suggests that the meal being consumed in this painting was not bread or lamb, as previously believed. "Instead, [John Varriano] writes in a new article in Gastronomica that the 1997 cleaning and restoration of the fresco revealed plates of grilled eel garnished with orange slices." Yeah, if someone fed me that, it'd be my last supper, too. {rimshot} I'll be here all week! Try the eels. Article: The Last Supper Menu: Revealed! (The Food Section / Josh Friedland)

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  1. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, the inclusion of eels probably has more to do with Da Vinci-era Italy’s culinary tastes than those of Christ-era Israel.

    That said, grilled eel with orange slices sounds really feakin’ good to me right now, good enough to set in motion a flurry of Google-fueled recipe searching…

  2. Exactly right, #3. Given that eels are not kosher, it’s highly unlikely that they would have been found at the Passover table of a first century Jewish rabbi…

  3. American’s narrow food tastes always amuses me.

    “Eeeew they are eating eels.”

    “Oh my god they are eating grasshoppers, etc.”

    Heck, we eat moldy dairy products (blue cheese).

    Giant sea dwelling bugs (shrimp and lobsters).

    And think nothing of eating a huge portion of essentially raw meat from a warm-blooded animal (a beef steak).

    My view is always that if someone, somewhere in the world considers it tasty, it may just well be…

    1. @voiceofreason what do I have to do around here, stick smileyfaces all over everything? it’s a joke. You’re preaching to the wrong eater — I’ve noshed on rats in West Africa, pig guts in Guatemala, and all sorts of exotic critter parts in Mexico. this post was done purely for the lulz. I do not care for eels, but I think they’re good joke fodder. EEELS

  4. To those discussing kashrut (kosher/dietary) laws: Yes, eel is not kosher (any seafood must have fins and scales) – While I suggest that the eel is a misinterpretation, my wife says that it’s possible that it was a joke by da Vinci, as other works by the artist contained sight gags.

    To those discussing da Vinci’s portrait of Jews, it’s possible that he did research, discovering that Semitic folks from the land of Canaan had dark and curly hair, resembling Italian hair.

    (the above is just conjecture, not to be taken internally)

  5. Hey, HPHovercraft, let me save you some time. Here’s a quick and dirty adaptation of a grilled eel recipe from the 1520s: skin the eel, remove the innards and wash thoroughly. Remove the head and cut the eel into pieces two fingers in width. Season with salt, pepper, and ground ginger or galangal, and roast on a hot, well-oiled gridiron, or on a spit with bay leaves between the pieces. When cooked, place on a plate and pour over a mixture of sour orange juice, a little oil, some chopped parsley, marjoram, and mint, and a little more pepper and ginger.

    Nota Bene: This is a pretty standard sauce for fish, found mostly in period Spanish and Italian sources. It’ll work for just about any fish; I’ve used it on salmon, tilapia and trout. Sour orange juice comes from Seville oranges, the kind used for marmalade. It’s still used in Caribbean cooking. You can substitute equal parts regular orange juice mixed with lemon, lime or grapefruit juice. If you want to cook the eel in a pan, just make sure the pan is hot and well-oiled. You can deglaze the pan with the orange juice mixture and reduce it a little, then pour it over the fish.

  6. As far as I know, eels (“anguilla” or “capitone”) are still a typical dish for Christmas lunch in many zones of Italy (Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Lazio, Puglia, Campania).

    The tradition is very strong in the south, where eating eels for Christmas is no less fundamental than eating turkey in the USA for Thanksgiving day.

    In the south it may be fried or in soup. In the north it is more often cooked with laurel and lemon.

    e.g. here is a recipe for eels with orange slices (I can translate, if required): http://www.ricettepertutti.it/ricette.asp?prog=967

  7. I’ve found that for most sushi eaters in the west, eel was the first thing tried, and liked, after you try the standard tuna, salmon, etc.

    It really is quite a great meat. Thomas Jefferson raised some in his pond at Monticello. When the apocalypse comes, I hope to raise some too.

  8. @paulatz

    Anguilla e arance non l’avevo mai provata, sono fermo alla anguilla fatta alla griglia.

    grazie per la ricetta.

  9. Osprey, Sweet oranges are a New World plant. Asian varieties have been cultivated in Italy since the eleventh century.

  10. Much liberty was taken in the painting (European clothing, hair, skin, architecture, table, plates, glassware, mannerisms, etc).

    The food was probably what LdV had at hand as models.

    There are more subtle issues with the picture too, but we won’t go there.

  11. #5

    To be fair, I don’t think anyone said “Eww they are eating eels.”

    Personally, I don’t think I’ve tried it, (I may have had it in sushi) but I’d really like to try this ‘smoked with oranges.’ Souds like brain food.

    Makes me crave good seafood.

    Mmmmm… Mako…

  12. Bravo Xeni, I saw folks cooking the palm tree rats (the good ones for eating) myself in Ivory Coast I think, or maybe it was Burkina, but never had the chance to try one. Glad to hear you are an adventurous food lover.

    I’ve never seen it mentioned on boing boing, but I am a huge poster on Chowhound under a different user name. The Chowhound crowd has a sort of a running joke regarding dining in a different country, authentic restaurant, or even someone’s home and getting the “Oh no, don’t try that, you won’t like it.” The true food lover will always give it a whirl. That said, I did get sick as a dog for two days in Senegal once from eating a fermented milk condiment that I was warned not to try ;-).

    Nothing ventured nothing gained.

  13. I missed that part of the photo in “The Davinci Code”

    eel: sweet, firm, tiny edible bones (like trout bones but thinner), and “environmentally friendly” (not endangered, grow quickly without pollution due to raising them, easily farmed).

  14. #9 said above… for fish to be kosher they must have scales. Eels don’t have scales, thus they are not kosher.

  15. yummy… eel… i dont think you should knock other cultures foods untill u try them because… eel is on some sushi and sushi rocks

  16. Considering the aphrodisiac nature of eel as a foodstuff, you have to wonder what the implication would be from its presence here.

  17. Pretty much everyone else has already said it – but yeah, eel does infact taste awesome. I too was much of the ‘ewww’ side of things till I ate it without realising what it was :D

    Very nice with a bowl of rice and a bit of sauce.

  18. Eeels as long as they are not Jellied like they do in London are always delish.

    Not too keen on the notion of Orange slices though

  19. Eels live in both freshwater and salt water. Some live in freshwater and spawn in the ocean.

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