Wednesday, June 19, 2013

THE MEDICI DYNASTY-The Series Continues

The brothers Charissio and Bonagiunta had settled well into their lives in Florence when last we visited with them. While both served their city and their government, subsequent generations lived modestly and unambitiously. As can be seen from the pictured portion of the family tree, not even their birth and death dates were noted.

Though no monumental contributions were made by these branches of the family tree, they were diligent, hard working, and ambitious. Through their work, partnerships formed and marriages made, these generations inculcated the family Medici more and more with life of Florence itself, gaining prestige and power bit by bit. But it would not always be an easy climb up the ladder.

Coinciding with the estimated years of life of the last generation on this particular portion of the Medici family tree, it can be deduced that one or two were involved with the great conflict between the factions of the Guelphs and Ghibellines (quick background...the struggle between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor began in the 12th century; their two factions--those who fought for one side or the other--were called the Guelphs--for the Pope--while the Ghibellines were the Imperial party). It is an interesting point of trivia to note that the Montecchis were Ghibellines; the Capuletis were Guelphs--names more than reminiscent of Montague and Capulet. As a result of the Battle of Campaldino, the Guelphs would reign supreme in Florence, but they would not reign united.

There are theories that the Florentine Guelphs broke apart due to the level of Papal support each member supported. But there is another postulation, one far more entertaining and interesting, offered by none other the famous and infamous Nicolo Machiavelli himself. In his History of Florence he lays claim that the division between the Nera (the Blacks) and the Bianca (the Whites, the faction more opposed to Papal power) all began...because of children's spat. While both children were of the Cancellieri family, but of two different branches, cousins in fact. As the divisivness escalated, those who descended from Bianca came to be known as the Bianci; it was only logical for the others to adopt the moniker of the Neri.

"These two parts, Blacks and Whites, members of a family whose name Cancellieri, which is divided: for some relatives were called Whites, Blacks others, and so the whole city was divided."
( Dino Fellow, Chronicler of the things necessary in 'his time , Book I, 25)

From the childhood spat arose to one of deadly animosity.  At the head of the Bianchi stood Vieri de Neri faction. The so-called dead Scandal, vicolo dello Scandolo, a winding alley snaking between the Corso and Via degli Alighieri, was created in the fourteenth century to divide the properties of the two factions, to prevent them from destroying the interior walls connecting the two family homes and assaulting their enemy--their family--in the dead of the night.
'Cerchi, while Corso Donati led the

Donati and the Neri could name such high citizenry as the whole of the Pazzi, the Bisdomini, Manieri, Bagnesi, Tornaquinci, Spini, Buondelmonti, Gianfigliazzi, and the Brunelleschi. But other names, other influential families, lined up behind the Bianchi: the Adimari, the Abati, a part of the Tosinghi, of the Bardi, of the Rossi, of the Frescobaldi, of the Nerli, and of the Manelli; all the Mozzi, the Scali, Gherardini, Cavalcanti, Malespini, Bostichi, Giandonati, Vecchietti, and Arrigucci. There were two other names associated with the Whites, one being that of Dante and the other...Medici.

Violent ambushes, poisonings, accusations of witchcraft...the rift escalated. The Council of One Hundred, which included Dino Fellow and Dante Alighieri as a priori, decided to intervene, to confine the heads of the two factions in an attempt to cool tempers. The arrangement had no result, and Dante himself traced his intervention in the government to his downfall. 

More violence, and the involvement of the Pope and Charles de Valois of France found the Whites--Dante and the Medici among them--exiled from Florence. But for some, for those for whom evil is a in their core, good is never good enough. With the expulsion of the Whites, the Blacks began to turn in upon themselves and more violence erupted between Corso Donati and Rosso della Tosa. The city could take no more...Corso Donati was assassinated, the remainder of the Donateschi were expulged, and the political and social life of Florence began to return to normal once more. And new families began their rise.

While there is no confirmable history to say which of the Medici were involved and exiled, it is assumed from their marriageless and childless lives, and the most logical in terms of where they fall in the chronology of the family, the two most probable members were Amigo and Giambuono (marked with a red star on the family tree). And those these men fathered no children, their nephews were quick to take up the reigns of political involvement and ambition their uncles began. 

Monday, June 10, 2013


It's a pleasure to welcome the lovely and talented Deanna Raybourn to the Writer's Study. Her answers will find you nodding your head in agreement and raising your brows in surprise. Deanna is the award-winning author of nine books including the New York Times Bestseller The Dark Enquiry. So pull up a chair and your favorite beverage and spend a few delightful moments with Deanna...Inside the Writer's Study.

What is your favorite word?
Pleasure. It’s a suspicious word for lots of people, but I believe in making everything I do as enjoyable as possible. 

What is your least favorite word?
Obligation. See also drudgery, chore, and duty.

What turns you on?
Wit and kindness.

What turns you off?
Stupidity and small-mindedness.

What sound or noise do you love?
Mourning doves and rushing river water.

What sound or noise do you hate?
 Modern manmade sounds—vehicles, technology—but the absolute worst is the squeaking of athletic shoes on a basketball court.

What is your favorite curse word?

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
There is no other one. A few centuries ago, I would have said Parisian salon hostess or courtesan.

What profession would you not like to do?
Anything medical.

If heaven or the after-life exists, what would you like to hear God, The Source (or whatever Deity you may believe in) say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
“Where would you like to go next?”

In one sentence, describe your newest or most recent release.
A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS is what happens when you put a disgraced flapper, an enigmatic man, and the spectacular setting of 1920s Africa into a cocktail shaker and give it a good jiggle.

To learn more about Deanna and her works, give her a visit at

Thank you, Deanna!

Monday, June 3, 2013

SUMMER BANQUET HOP AND GIVEAWAY! tossed wide open; fresh resplendent air wafting in sweet with blooms bright and fecund; wind sluicing through lush trees as birds chirp their happiness at the warmth of the sun upon their backs; AND the freshest of food brought to the table in celebration. Welcome to the Summer Banquet Hop and join along as over thirty authors add their voice to the celebration... honoring summer, food, and the history of food related topics, each offering their own particular subject and theme, and their own giveaway offerings.

Italians have made extraordinary contributions to the culinary world, but none
may be as important as the fork. While ancient history shows that large, two tinned forks were used as a cooking utensil as far back as Ancient Egypt (~3000 BC), they can be found in the same capacity, some made of bronze and some of silver, through the Bronze Age of Qinghai, China to the Roman Empire. But it was in Italy that the fork made its way onto the table as an eating utensil.

Theodora Anna Doukaina (1058-1083), the daughter of Byzantine Emperor Constantine X, became the wife of Domenic Selvo in 1075, a man serving as Doge (ruler) of Venice from 1071 until 1084. While war raged in all corners of Europe, Domenic was a man of peace and civility, forging alliances which contributed to Venice's Golden Age, enhancing their stature as the center of European trade. Theodora's contribution to the evolution of civilization was the fork. She brought hers with her, to the table of Doge, and while many chided and denounced her for its use...for her haughty manners...the use of the fork slowly gained more and more popularity, especially on the tables of the noble and wealthy merchant classes. It was not long (historically speaking a few centuries) until everyone in Italy was...forking!

Through visiting dignitaries and diplomats, through marriages which brought such notables as Catherine de' Medici to the tables of other European countries, the fork made its way through the continent and into the hands of the people.

Thomas Coryat, an English traveler and writer of the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean age, gives a marvelous insight into the attitude of the fork as it made its journey. In his memoir of a European tour, one titled Coryat's Crudities: Hastily gobled up in Five Moneth's Travels, he wrote: 'because the Italian cannot by any means endure to have his dish touched with fingers, seeing all men's fingers are not alike clean. These 'little forks' were usually made of iron or steel, but occasionally also of silver.' Coryate says he 'thought good to imitate the Italian fashion by this forked cutting of meat, and hence a humorous English friend, in his merry humour, doubted not to call me furcifer, only for using a fork at feeding.' (The word fork comes from the Latin furca, meaning "pitchfork.")

But of course, Italians are not only famous for bringing the fork to Europeans tables, but they are as well, or more famously known for the delicious meals these forks were used to eat. It would be remiss to not include a that can be found throughout Italian history dating back to the end of the Middle Ages all through to today's tables. It is a an Italian favorite: Vitello con Piselli (Veal and Peas)!

3 whole peeled and halved shallots
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
Pinch red pepper seed
Olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup veal stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup sweet peas
1/4 cup fresh basil chiffonade
1 cup pea tendrils, plus more for garnish
6-8 small veal tenderloins
Oven roast the shallots until tender and caramelized. Set aside.
Sauté garlic and red pepper seed on medium heat with a little olive oil until garlic is lightly browned. Add roasted shallots to pan and deglaze with wine. Add chicken and veal stock, tomato paste. Reduce by half on high heat until thickened. Add peas, tendrils and basil. Simmer until tender.
Grill veal tenderloins to medium rare.
Divide tenderloins between two plates and top each with the savory demi glaze. Garnish with pea tendrils. Serves 2.

In honor of Summer, food, and the Summer Banquet Hop, I will be giving away a copy of my latest book, The King's Agent, set in Renaissance Italy (a recipient of a starred review in Publishers Weekly) as well as a copy of Italian Classics Cook Book. To enter, you must sign up as a follower to this blog. For additional chances to win, leave a comment on this post, Friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter (@DonnaRussoMorin). Buona fortuna e buona tavola (good luck and good eating)! This giveaway is limited to the US residents only.

Be sure to visit the other Summer Banquet Hop participating bloggers for more intriguing historical food posts and more giveaways!

Hop Participants
  1. Random Bits of Fascination (Maria Grace)
  2. Pillings Writing Corner (David Pilling)
  3. Anna Belfrage
  4. Debra Brown
  5.  Lauren Gilbert
  6. Gillian Bagwell
  7. Julie K. Rose
  8. Donna Russo Morin
  9. Regina Jeffers
  10. Shauna Roberts
  11. Tinney S. Heath
  12. Grace Elliot
  13. Diane Scott Lewis
  14. Ginger Myrick
  15. Helen Hollick
  16. Heather Domin
  17. Margaret Skea
  18. Yves Fey
  19. JL Oakley
  20. Shannon Winslow
  21. Evangeline Holland
  22. Cora Lee
  23. Laura Purcell
  24. P. O. Dixon
  25. E.M. Powell
  26. Sharon Lathan
  27. Sally Smith O’Rourke
  28. Allison Bruning
  29. Violet Bedford
  30. Sue Millard
  31. Kim Rendfeld