by Ippolita Douglas Scotti:
Tomorrow is a big holiday in the USA. In Italy, we don't have this same tradition, but I do want to share something of our Florentine history and the recipes that were born from our traditions. Let me introduce you to the fantastic history of the "Arista!"
The succulent Arista—a piece of bone-in roasted pork seasoned with pepper, herbs, and garlic, typical of Tuscan cuisine—was once simply called, "roast pork." The term "Arista" was born in Florence, in a precise historical juncture on a day between the 15th and 27th of January of 1439. Here is its history, accredited by Pellegrino Artusi, excellent gastronomist of the nineteenth century.
In Florence in 1439, the Ecumenical Council of the Roman and Greek Church took place. Commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici the Elder to try and gain diplomatic advantage, he convinced Pope Eugene IV to move the Council from Ferrara, victim of the plague, to Florence. For the occasion, he offered the guests a sumptuous banquet in the Palazzo Peruzzi, prepared in honor of the prelates coming from Greece. This particular banquet at Palazzo Peruzzi was influential in changing the vocabulary of typical Tuscan cooking.
Among the many rich dishes served that evening, there were varieties of meat and pork.
When the Greek cardinal, Basil Bessarione, tasted the baked pork loin, seasoned—as tradition dictates—with garlic, pepper, rosemary, and sage, he delightedly exclaimed, "Aristos! Aristos!" which in Greek means "The best!" Obviously, he had never eaten such a tasty and yummy roasted meat. The Florentine guests misunderstood, believing that his exclamation indicated the name of the pork dish and immediately renamed it "Arista."
At the end of the meal, a local sweet wine called Vin Pretto (pure wine) was served. When Bessarione, from the island of Xantos, tasted the sweet wine, he stated that it reminded him of the famous, straw-like wine from Xantos. Once again, the Florentines misunderstood and thought they heard the prelate describe the wine as "santo" (holy). From that night forward, the sweet wine was called "vin santo" (holy wine), and they continued to use it during the eucharesty at the mass. After that banquet, the terms "Arista" and "Vin Santo" remained in the Florentine tradition. Quiet an evening, I'd say!
Here is the original recipe:
Preheat oven to 350 °F (180°C)
1 kg (approx. 2 lbs) boneless center-cut pork loin roast
3 tsp chopped fresh sage
3 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
½ tsp salt and ground black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
Mix together the rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Make deep cuts into the pork roast and stuff the incisions with the garlic mixture.
Spread any remaining mixture over the entire surface of the meat.
Pour oil into a large skillet and heat over a medium flame.
Add the pork roast and roll it around until browned on all sides.
Place the roast in a roasting pan.