Paris Day 5-6: Disneyland in Paris

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I’ve been to Disney World in Orlando more times than I can remember. I’m assuming it’s at least in the double digits, so to say I’m familiar with the park is probably an understatement. Disneyland Paris is something else, however, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the park was not a mirror image of its predecessors.

Opening in April of 1992, the park is still celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year though it’s now officially crossed the 26 year mark. But we’re also celebrating other significant milestones with this park visit. The first time my mother ever got the chance to experience a Disney Park, it was with my grandmother, which was also her first visit too. It was on this trip that my mother became obsessed with Disney and Mickey Mouse, passing along her love to me as well. So, for the first time, we were both visiting a Disney park for the first time together, neither of us having been to Disneyland Paris before.

And the park is certainly unique! Not only does it have exclusive rides, but even the classic staples found at all Disney Parks are different–and we were even able to enjoy experiences that no longer exist at older parks. One of these was Captain Jack’s restaurant (though of different name back then), which is a sit-down restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride which is seen from the boats going through. My mother explained that she went to this restaurant with my grandmother too, so we made sure to check it out as well. The food was amazing but I’m pretty sure I’ve never felt as full in my entire life.

We rode Pirates of the Caribbean 3 times in the course of our visit, it being one of our all time favorites from Disney Parks. Though the dialogue spoken in the ride was French, the Pirate’s Life song was sung in English so it was both familiar and fun. It also wasn’t a copy of the original, there were a few added features like a Barbossa who, under moonlight, dazzled in cursed skeletal glory. Different odds and ends like poor kitties floating on crates, a captain’s quarters, and of course the view of Captain Jack’s Restaurant made it a unique treat despite the many times I’ve been on the ride in Disney World. We also saw the new addition of a Pirate Red-Head, which has since changed over from the original wench auction.

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The park worlds are all different too! There is Frontierland (not set-up the same as Disney World at all), Adventureland which is broken up by an Adventure Isle which contains a pirate ship, Skull Rock, and a maze of dark tunnel caves which is a whole lot of fun put would have probably given my parents a heart-attack if my brother and I played in them as kids. Fantasyland which includes enough exclusive features to set it apart, and Discoveryland which replaces Tomorrowland as the sci-fi otherword but with more of a steampunk flair in aesthetic. There is also a second park called Walt Disney Studios which takes the place of Hollywood Studios at Disney World which includes Tower of Terror and one of my old favorites, Animation Studio which has since been turned into a Star Wars outpost in Disney World.

And, of course, the Disney castle is different–instead of Cinderella, the castle in the middle belongs to Sleeping Beauty and upstairs there is an entire stained glass gallery featuring her story. Also, underneath the castle in a dark cave lives the dragon…

As for the rides that can’t be found at Disney World? We tried them all! Ratatouille being the most well-known, we hit up that one first especially since the lines for it are ridiculously long. And though it was fun, I can’t suggest that an hour wait is worth it. It was certainly a pleasant ride, but we were good with one go. You ride on a mouse mobile chasing around in Gusteau’s restaurant but the ride relies mostly on motion with the action happening on screen and the mouse car moving in place along in response. There are some fun moments where you do move through the kitchen and pleasant smells like citrus are injected into the air. Another exclusive ride that left us a bit wanting was Indiana Jones and The Temple of Peril. It’s a short mine cart roller coaster that hooks and loops around a cool looking temple ruin, but it mostly jostles you around and both my mother and I repeatedly had our heads pinging back and forth against our headrest so we left the ride feeling a bit disoriented and woozy. The ride also lacks the magic of integrating you into the world of Indiana Jones which other Disney rides are pretty good about doing, nothing during the ride had anything to do with the whipped crusader aside from name alone which was a shame. It could have been a roller coaster from anywhere.

One of my favorites was Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain, which was a refurbishment of Space Mountain, a similar thing having happened to the ride at Disneyland California too. Space Mountain, in my experience at Disney World, isn’t a ride that had aged well. Half the time it’s broken down and the other half it’s rickety and rough, throwing you around in an un-enjoyable experience that’s hardly even dark enough anymore, the blackness of space impossible when the roller coaster tracks are visible. So I was excited to see how Hyperspace Mountain improved upon the formula and I was not disappointed. IT WAS COOL! First thing it does is launch you so fast it straps you back and you momentarily loose your breath as your body tries to adjust to the velocity, and once you’re finally able to breathe again, you’re being thrown around in the dark with flashing lasers and dogfights between X-Wings and Tie Fighters, it’s honestly a treat.

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Surprisingly, in a country that prides itself on food, Disneyland Paris didn’t have much variety in options. I remember when I was a kid, the food wasn’t that impressive at Disney World either, but over the years they’ve really strengthened their culinary prowess and now you can’t turn a corner without a stall having its own unique dish to salivate and throw down $20 for (I’m exaggerating but also it’s kinda on the mark) If you’re curious to see what Disney World has going on in the food world, I suggest following Disneyfoodblog but be prepared to pack your bags and book your tickets. At Disneyland Paris, every single stall either had popcorn and ice cream or sugared crepes and a hot dog. Don’t get me wrong, these hot dogs are something else. They’re giant doggies nestled in a baguette and I could probably eat one every day but you just want some options, you know?

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And maybe this is simply because of the culture in Europe. We saw signs telling people that picnicking within the park was not permitted and we were wondering, was that seriously a thing? Evidently. Most of the visitors at Disneyland Paris brought in school sized backpacks full of food that they’d consume in line for a ride. There was one guy chowing down a bowl of noodles before getting on Hyperspace mountain and I have to wonder if he had an iron gut.

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A few other stray observations…

Both parks are small, which is no surprise since the internet is pretty up front about warning visitors of this. Walt Disney Studios takes less than an hour to walk all around with no stops, so if you’re planning a visit, get the multi-pass.

France being France was eager to let us know what they were responsible for inventing which was pretty funny. Declarations were featured in a few of their rides like ‘the French invented animation!’, ‘the French invented special effects!’, ‘the French invented shooting films on location!’. It was honestly endearing.

It’s a Small World WAS sung in French!

There was a severe lack of adult beverages which is the opposite problem at Disney World. Do Europeans not need to be drowning in booze in order to get through a day spent with their kids?

Both days the Aladdin signing autographs was white as hell.

Do Europeans get the same sense of wonder and awe with our history and aesthetic as we do theirs? Frontierland is an ode to the American West, do their minds tick and whirl with imaginings of Cowboys and Native Americans?

Some guy accidentally sneezed on my mother and she reflexively said “Bless you!” to him which cued a fervently concerned discussion in German where the wife was pretty sure my mother meant something along the lines of gesundheit rather than the other probable two worded phrase she might have fired off instead.

Other treats, a pineapple dole whip float. It’s not the same as the swirl featured in Disney World but it did the job. And the beignets are delicious!

All in all, I’m super glad we checked out Disneyland Paris. As lifelong Disney fans, it was really cool to experience Disney in a different way and I’ll always remember it fondly as that crazy time we went to visit Mickey Mouse in Paris. Now I’ll need to visit Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Tokyo too!

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Paris Day 4: Life is Laissez-faire

Today is our last day in the city of Paris before we move on to see if Pirates of the Caribbean is sung in French. Since we wore out the soles of our shoes yesterday with all our walking, we thought we’d take it a bit easy today since we’ll be hitting the pavement hard in Disneyland. In the morning, we took a walk a few blocks down to visit a bakery and stop into a cafe for a quick breakfast.

I don’t know what it is about their ham, but every dish I’ve had with it featured is beyond amazing. It basically melts in your mouth and the flavor from the juices makes me feel like declaring France the king of the pig over Italy which just feels sacrilegious to me. As we were sitting outside on the patio, we must have looked like locals who knew what the hell we were doing because a group of fellow tourists came up to us trying to speak French, asking us for directions. We were so proud of ourselves, especially since they were looking for help in getting to the Opera Granier which we knew intimately at this point, as our hotel is located within walking distance. We told them the way and felt like proud Parisians for a minute. Not shortly after, however, my mother was back to spreading the good word of Minnesota “oop!” which does a much more satisfactory job than “excusez-moi” when accidentally running into people, if you ask me.

Since we are so close, we decided to try and see if our tourist friends made it safely from our directions and decided to tour the Opera Granier ourselves!

Named after it’s grand architect Charles Garnier, the Opera House was completed in 1875, after an assassination attempt on Emperor Napoleon III prompted a desire for a new opera location since the old one was getting a bit dangerous. Hilariously, however, France was a republic again by the time the Opera Garnier was completed. Napoleon III was super dead and unable to attend the opening, but thanks anyway!

And, of course, the Opera Garnier is known for another famous spectre, the Phantom! The novel by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opéra, is inspired by tales and events that occurred at the Opera, one in particular being the accident in which a patron was killed after a chandelier had become dislodged, crashing through the auditorium. Gaston was an investigative journalist and claimed the story as factual in the opening chapter of the novel, but unfortunately it’s mostly a work of fiction.

I think if I was sitting in the seats directly below this, I’d probably keep looking up every 5 seconds just to make sure I wasn’t about to become a ghost myself.

Standing inside the Opera Garnier is nothing short of astonishing. I probably spent 20 minutes just soaking up the gold in this room with my mouth hanging open. Despite the looks, however, it’s not as expensive as it might seem. Though some things like the fireplace and a few statues are genuinely fully gilded with gold leaf, a majority of this room was oil painted and created to give the effect of gilding.

I don’t know about you, but this works just as well for me!

There is even a sad Salieri who lives here, which I stopped giggling long enough to snap a photo of. He DID NOT kill Mozart, but R.I.P. Milos Forman.

After the Opera, we walked some more, taking in the sights and sounds of Paris. We passed a shop with sizzling hens, produce stalls, and got plenty a whiff from the flower shops lining the streets. Though it wasn’t night yet and we had no interest in seeing the can-can dancers, we waved to the Moulin Rouge anyway.

Plenty tired now from all of our walking, we kicked up our feet outside on a cafe patio so I could read my Shakespeare & Company copy of Hunchback of Notre Dame and my mother could people watch. Also, had myself a real flat white rather than the Starbucks knockoff I’m used to and a tasty savory croissant with tomato, ham, & cheese!

Though Paris is beautiful in the rain, we spent it indoors at a restaurant enjoying our last meal in town. Managed to knock off a few French cuisine staples too!

Beef bourgignoun!

Creme brûlée!

And the prettiest cappuccino I’ve ever seen!

Thanks for the love, Paris! You’ve been swell to a couple of bumpkins with a flimsy grasp of the language, and we’ve been nothing but smiles since we’ve got here! We’re in perfect moods to take to Disneyland and my mom is frothing at the mouth to get her hands on a Mickey Mouse sugar cookie. Au revoir!

Paris Day 3: Versailles, The Louvre, & Food. Oh My!

I forgot to mention a few notes from yesterday in my haste to get into bed! We learned about the unofficial memorial to Princess Diana while touring, it’s a golden torch that hangs out above the tunnel where the fatal crash occurred. So when we took our ride to our dinner cruise later, we were in cryptic shock when we realized we were traveling through the same tunnel. It does feel a bit eery! On our dinner cruise, I was given the privilege of tasting the wine for the table because I apparently said ‘bonjour!’ well enough in greeting that the waiter got confused and thought I was French, so take that mother! Also, the Luxor Obelisk I took a picture of in my last post also happens to be displayed in the same spot Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI were executed on the guillotine during the French Revolution. This last tidbit brings me to the start of our adventure this morning!

Like I had mentioned earlier, the Chateau de Versailles was one of my favorite things I had seen on my previous trip and I was excited for my mother to see it. I made her watch Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette film back home in preparation which, while not entirely perfect in historical accuracy, makes for a beautiful movie which I love regardless and the film was even shot on location! We arrived at Versailles early morning so we could get in before it got too crowded.

Opulent, yet faint with age, Versailles is still the pearl of France. Where once the extravagance behind its doors were regarded as gratuitously frivolous and enraged the populous into a rebellious frenzy, it now exists as a shell of itself–most of the inner furnishing lost, after it had all been removed following the revolution. Yet, you can still get a sense of the characters who once walked these halls–from the Sun King’s love of hunting proudly displayed in reverence to Artemis to what fun must have been had in the billiards room, it’s impossible to escape the shadow of greatness.

One of the things I did not get to see last time were the extensive gardens. We rented a cart to drive out back to see the Grand & Petit Trianon, and got to drive through the gardens all afternoon. It was a beautiful mid-60’s sunny day in Spring with a light breeze carrying with it a hint of moisture blowing off from the canal. So, perfect, basically. Within the Petit Trianon was the classic portrait of Marie Antoinette, who while alive, hated the lifestyle at Versailles. Kindred introverts, Marie would hide away from the court at Versailles in favor of residing at the Trianon or her cottage home created to emulate a simpler, quieter country life.

I have written about Marie a few times on this blog, if you want a taste of a bit of her sass you can read here or if you are curious to know what her famous last words might have been before being executed, check it out here.

Before leaving the gardens, we had to check out a fountain show too!

Now, onto some food! For breakfast at Versailles, we stopped into Angelina’s where I was determined to capture a video of the hot chocolate pouring into my cup because I’m cruel like that.

Then, after burning off all that chocolate walking around the gardens, we split a fresh club sandwich and replenished our supply of sugar with a Nutella banana crepe, all served within the gardens itself!

Nap time probably, but nope! We were now off to hit up the Louvre so we could say hi to Mona Lisa and get my fix of other historical people I really dig.

My answer whenever someone asks that question, “Who would you invite to dinner, living or dead?” That’d be my boy Marcus Aurelius!

And then there is his son Commodus, who is my favorite asshole. I wrote about this douche on my blog before which you can read about here!

More Joan of Arc ❤

And this handsome devil Antinous, thought to be one of the most beautiful people in the classical world, not unlike the male version of Helen. I wrote about him too and the ridiculous ending to his story here.

And, of course, the smile known around the world.

Last but not least, I ate a really fantastic burger and America should really get on this Ramen bun thing, I’m just Seine-in’.

Those Saucy Romans

Garum sauce

If you thought putting anchovies on pizza was gross, brace yourself for this next post. The Roman Empire, being a wretched hive of scum and villainy for about the entirety of it’s hellion reign across most of Europe, wasn’t exactly shy about being off the wall crazy about some of its more questionable pleasures. From painting lavish dick pics everywhere to delighting in some healthy disembowelment in the gladiatorial arena, not much of these practices would be accepted in modern day society. Well, okay, except for maybe the first one.

One of the things the Romans were famously into, was soaking their food up in a sauce known as “Garum” or “Liquamen” which we’ve found archaeological evidence of in manufacturing, residue in pottery, and depicted in art and writing of the time. The sauce knew no societal bounds, common among people of all different classes and religions (evidence of a kosher option even exists) [1 & 3]. So, basically sounds like the Roman version of ketchup. How bad could it be?

Another liquid, too, of a very exquisite nature, is that known as “garuim:” it is prepared from the intestines of fish and various parts which would otherwise be thrown away, macerated in salt; so that it is, in fact, the result of their putrefaction. – Pliny the Elder, The Natural History [2]

Makes me want to hurl harder than a highlander tossing a log across long distances to impress his skirt wearing friends.

But was it really all that bad? Obviously, it was incredibly popular and how far removed would our taste buds really be from our Classical ancestors? Are we really any different, slathering our sushi rolls with eel sauce?

Evidently, garum was probably similar to popular fish sauces found in Vietnamese, Indochinese, and Turkish cuisine today. And based on our sources and the ancient recipe we’ve discovered concerning its production (A salt to fish ratio of 1:8), “the amount of salt used in the production process inhibited putrefaction and, hence, prevented any rancid smells. Bacterial fermentation, similar to that found in the production of cheeses, induced maturation of the product.” [3] Pliny claimed that the sauce itself smelled a bit funky, but what decent cheese doesn’t? And let’s not forget that even if it had a strong ode de parfum, he still called it exquisite. [2]

Garum party

What life was like for the Romans before the invention of Nutella

Probably seems strange that such a popular and maybe not all that gross sauce would just disappear then. But apparently, the sauce itself was fairly expensive, even some higher quality versions near the end of the Roman Empire’s life span would cost about $500 of today’s moolah. [3 & 4] It’s always baffling to me how unperturbed we are to have table salt readily available in a cupboard or at a restaurant, but it used to be a precious commodity that was heavily taxed and fought over. With a salt tax introduced among the empire, garum production became a bit too expensive since it was the necessary component that made it deliciously putridy. And with the collapse of power in the western half of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, the ownership of the Mediterranean seas became an indisputable playground for some good old fashioned piracy. [4]

If you’re not turned off by the process and are still curious how it tasted, however, you’re in luck! It’s starting to make a comeback.

Do you not realize that garum sociorum, that expensive bloody mass of decayed fish, consumes the stomach with its salted putrefaction?

— Seneca, Epistle 95. [5]
Fact Check it, yo!
[1] LEARY, T. (1994). JEWS, FISH, FOOD LAWS AND THE ELDER PLINY. Acta Classica, 37, 111-114. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24594356
[2] Pliny the Elder, The Natural History. John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S. H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A. London. Taylor and Francis, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street. 1855.
[3] Curtis, R. (1983). In Defense of Garum. The Classical Journal,78(3), 232-240. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3297180
[4] Prichep, D. (2013, October 26). Fish Sauce: An Ancient Roman Condiment Rises Again. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2013/10/26/240237774/fish-sauce-an-ancient-roman-condiment-rises-again

King Slayers – King Henry I of England Loves Pie

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My perfect date is March 14th. It’s not too hot and not too cold, all you need is a little pie.

 

Let me preface this by saying, I’m related to this buffoon. And if you say that this explains a lot, how dare you! * My 29th great-grandfather Henry I of England was the fourth son of great grand pappy William the Conqueror who most folks might remember from European history as the man who made Britain by stealing it away from those pesky Anglo-Saxons who were having a ball of a time with Vikings and their descendants (William among them) for the past 500 or so years.

If you’re wondering how a 4th son in the royal line managed to become King, that’d be because he had a few brothers to get through first. After the death of their father William, the title of the kingship passed to his third son, William II. His eldest son Robert Curthose was consistently a rebellious little prick and was originally supposed to be disinherited altogether, but William the Conqueror bequeathed him the Duchy of Normandy instead. It couldn’t pass to the second son Richard, who died in a hunting accident (This happens a lot. Maybe royalty shouldn’t hunt so much). And after everything had been divvied up, the will basically read “And none for Gretchen Weiners, bye!” and Henry I was left with nothing.

Meanwhile, Robert’s younger brothers, William and
Henry, had taken umbrage at his pretensions and at the rash
demands which he had made upon their father, and they were
strongly supporting the king against him. While in this frame
of mind they paid Robert a visit at his lodgings. Going into an
upper room, they began dicing ‘ as soldiers will ‘; and presently
doubtless after there had been drinking they started a row
and threw down water upon their host and his companions who
were on the floor below. Robert was not unnaturally enraged at
this insult, and with the support of his comrades he rushed in
upon the offenders, and a wild scuffle ensued, which was only
terminated by the timely arrival of the king, who, upon hearing
the clamor, came in haste from his lodgings and put a stop to the
quarrel by his royal presence. [1]

Charles Wendell David, Robert Curthose: Duke of Normany on the prank that caused Robert’s first rebellion. Basically, he had a whole chamber pot of water dumped on his head by his younger brothers and wasn’t having any of it going forward.

Most likely fuming at the slight and ostensibly aware that his older brothers now had titles and armies over him, Henry I purchased a swath of land and began building himself forces to aid him in the coming wars against his brothers over the Kingship. Especially now that daddy was out of the way and unavailable to break-up their quarreling.

Years of infighting ensued until Henry I emerged victorious over his brothers. Henry I beat Robert in battle and kept him locked up in perpetuity and as for the short-lived King William II, he perished in another one of those “accidental” hunting incidents.

Robert Curthose Defeated

Psst. Robert, I have a dungeon cell ready for you with 500 chamber pots. Get it? Get it?! They’re your favorite!

Once becoming king, Henry I spent most of his 35 year reign doing a bang up job at it, extending the reach of England, strengthening the government’s role in judiciary quibbles, and other awesome Kingly things. Except for the job of banging out an heir, apparently.

He did have one son, William the Aetheling and heir apparent, who was 17 and had been recently married, all the makings of a soon to be king naturally. Except, William and a large number of other nobles (around 200) decided to have a beach party rager not unlike an episode of Laguna Beach. Drunk out of their minds, they boarded The White Ship with the intent of crossing the English Channel, which the heavily inebriated captain suggested they could do well before the King did if they kicked it into high gear, and soon they were off sailing at high speed, having waved off priests who had intended to bless their safe passing because what could possibly go wrong on a pleasant night of drunken revelry such as this? The White Ship shattered upon a rock at the mouth of the harbor moments later, sinking Henry I’s future prospects with it. [2]

White Ship

Kids Making Good Decisions since 1120 AD!

Henry I was kind of screwed at this point. He spent the next 10+ years trying to sire a new heir to no avail and plan out a contingency plan for his legacy (which, lol, this is British history we all know how well that will turn out). We can only imagine that the happiest times of his life then at this point, was probably related to dinner time. Medieval meals were pretty much only something to write home about if you were part of the aristocracy, and that’d be for either good or bad reasons. Because for every sugar sculpture, there was probably a batshit insane eel pie to go along with it. Which just so happened to be Henry I’s favorite dish. (WHY ARE MY BLOOD RELATIONS SO DISGUSTING)

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On a November night in 1135, Henry I requested copious amounts of lamprey (eeeeel) pie, which is basically this disgusting sounding concoction of crusty baked eel fish things in a wine and spice syrup and excuse me, I’m gagging. Apparently, he ate so many of these nasty things that he fell incredibly ill. Within days, the king had succumbed to what the chronicles called a “surfeit of Lampreys”. Whatever the hell truly caused his death (some modern scholars contend the culprit to certainly be food poisoning at the least) [3], his corpse was so wretched following his death, that “the body was cut all over with knives and copiously sprinkled with salt and wrapped in oxhides to stop the strong pervasive stench, which was already causing the deaths of those who watched over it.” [2] Basically, for the love of all that is right and holy, do not put pineapple on your pizza and DO NOT EAT EEL PIES.

 

Cause of Death: BEING DISGUSTING

 

 

Fact check it, yo!

[1] David, C. W. (1920). Robert Curthose, duke of Normandy, by Charles Wendell David, .. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

[2] Jones, D. (2014). The Plantagenets: the warrior kings and queens who made England. New York: Penguin Books.

[3] Crofton, I. (2014). A Curious History of Food and Drink. New York: Quercus.

*  On my relation, I did some extensive genealogy research with Ancestry.com on my mother’s French side and was able to track our family back to the Plantagenet’s by way of the Windsor line. I claim a slew of Viking kings, William the Conqueror, Henry I, and his daughter Empress Matilda as direct descendants. We start to deviate from there off with Matilda’s son William Plantagenet’s daughter marrying a Windsor. That line breaks somewhere in the 16th century and we start getting a bit more normal with each generation. But hey, if anyone is in touch with William and Harry, I’d be amenable to a wedding invitation! Welcome to the family, Meghan!

Tomato or Tomato?

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Tomatoes are NOT native to the Mediterranean despite what some pasta-loving purists may believe.

The tomato is actually native to the South American Andes where it was first cultivated around 500 c. BC and later became a prominent food source for the Aztecs in Mexico which means salsa pre-dated marinara, folks!

The Italians didn’t first see what they would later call, “The Golden Apple” (Pomodoro!) until around the 16th century, when it was thought that the Spanish (Possibly Hernan Cortez) brought it over from the new world. The first mention of this exotic vegetable (or fruit. Have we ever settled on this?) in Italy was by a physician and botanist in 1544 named Pietro who mistook it for an eggplant, who, given his profession, should probably have quit his day job.

The reputation of the tomato didn’t fair any better after this, being assumed as poisonous due to its variety of bright colors. But, given that this was during the hay day of the Renaissance and poisoning was the preferred method of anyone trying to play a decent joke or a murder or ten, the caution was probably substantiated.

Eventually though, a recipe book showed up in Naples in the 17th century detailing how to cook with the apple/eggplant thing and the rest is history, where the tomato will eventually feature in pizzas, pastas, and bad stand-up comedy shows for centuries to come.