The Inception of Tortellini and the Case of Aaron Hernandez
Tradition and the Individual Tortellino
First, the birth of a tortellino: Venus, voyeurism, and a trip to the kitchen. According to legend, an innkeeper in the town of Castelfranco Emilia (near Bologna) happened to spy through a keyhole the goddess of love’s navel. If this were Ovid, he would, at this point, have been turned into a tree or a bird or a sheet of egg pasta. But the legend continues that he was so inspired by this divine sight that he rushed to his kitchen and recreated her navel by folding a rolled-out sheet of fresh egg pasta. Then, ate it.
In a segment of NPR’s Morning Edition called “Tortellini, The Dumpling Inspired By Venus’ Navel,” Sylvia Poggioli details the inception of tortellini, a festival celebrating “the peeping-Tom innkeeper,” and the competitive, changing nature of tortellini today. Traditionally, the art of making tortellini was restricted to the female domain. There is even a special name in Italian for the women, usually starting when they are seven or eight years old, who inherit this tradition: sfogline (from sfoglia, the sheet of fresh egg pasta). But Grazia Battistini, a 63-year-old sfoglina, bemoans the loss of this tradition, saying that many “kill” the tortellini by substituting tomato sauce, butter or cream for the broth. Now, as more women constitute the work force, more men are getting involved in the cooking. And new restaurants like Tortellino Bologna, a fast food joint, are popping up. But, if this is any consolation to traditionalists, Tortellino Bologna employs sfogline—some of whom are in their 80s—to make their tortellini.
While listening to and reading about this distinct pasta, I kept thinking of an Italian proverb my father (who, incidentally, was very good at making tortellini) used to always say: Prendere un uomo per la gola (the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach). I found online another good proverb about food (there are many); this one goes: a tavola non si invecchia (you don’t age while seated for a meal).
—Nicola Fucigna, Fiction Editor
The Aaron Hernandez Case
If you are the type of person who might be interested in reading Rolling Stone’s 7,600-word profile of Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots star who allegedly murdered (or helped orchestrate the murder of) a semi-pro football player named Odin Lloyd, chances are you already have read it. The Internet is talking about it. The piece was published yesterday, and before the day was half over, Slate had published 1,200 words highlighting its “four key takeaways,” and Deadspin had given it 800; both pieces end by suggesting that the reader read the original story. To which I will add: you should read the piece.
—Nathan Schiller, Editor