(Pagan symbol in the catholic church of Bullintubber, Western Ireland)
For a few days now, the word ‘syncretism’ has been going round and round inside my head. It’s one of those words that you come across at school and one that fascinates, not only because of its meaning, but also because of the sound that the word produces, to which the meaning is enduringly tied - it evokes cultural contaminations, esoteric atmospheres and unexpected parallelisms. If I had to say which academic university exams I enjoyed the most, I would chose ‘comparative literature.’
I will quote you consecutively the definitions that Wikipedia gives for ‘syncretism’ and ‘comparative literature’:
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word. Syncretism may involve the merger and analogising of several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, thus asserting an underlying unity and allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths. Syncretism also occurs commonly in expressions of arts and culture (see eclecticism) as well as politics (see syncretic politics). The Oxford English Dictionary first attests the word syncretism in English in 1618. It derives from modern Latin syncretismus, drawing on Greek συγκρητισμός (synkretismos), meaning "Cretan federation." The Greek word occurs in Plutarch's (1st century AD) essay on "Fraternal Love" in his Moralia (2.490b). He cites the example of the Cretans, who reconciled their differences and came together in alliance when faced with external dangers. "And that is their so-called Syncretism." Erasmus probably coined the modern usage of the Latin word in his Adagia ("Adages"), published in the winter of 1517–1518, to designate the coherence of dissenters in spite of their differences in theological opinions. In a letter to Melanchthon of April 22, 1519, Erasmus specifically adduced the Cretans of Plutarch as an example of his adage "Concord is a mighty rampart".
Comparative literature (sometimes abbreviated "Comp. lit.") is an academic field dealing with the literature of two or more different linguistic, cultural or national groups. While most frequently practiced with works of different languages, comparative literature may also be performed on works of the same language if the works originate from different nations or cultures among which that language is spoken. Also included in the range of inquiry are comparisons of different types of art; for example, a relationship of film to literature. It is one of the degrees in English.
You will ask yourselves what these two arguments have to do with a blog about food and wine. Nothing probably, if it wasn’t for the fact that I also like to mix things up and find connections. Therefore, I’ve decided that today, gastronomic syncretism will be born here on Paradise Possible’s food and wine blog. And even if in reality this is not a novelty, I bet that no one has ever called it that. The dish with which we will start this new movement is no less than the starter that we eat in our house during festivities (I have already written a little something about it here): smoked salmon with Tropea onions and capers, accompanied by toasted bread with a layer of butter on top. Here is the recipe, it’s really simple and will feed four people:
- 200g of smoked salmon: Irish if possible, because the recipe is one from the heart and it originated in Ireland, at least for my family.
- 1 Tropea onion: I specify that it should be from Tropea, not only for the red colour, perfectly matched to that of the salmon, but above all so that our syncretism is emphasised, enjoyed and experienced to the maximum!
- 2 tablespoons of capers: also very Mediterranean, perhaps picked on the Eolian Islands, which are full of wind, sun and sea.
- Lemon juice: what do you reckon, Sorrento lemons?
- Extra virgin olive oil: ideally it would be from Marche, maybe from the olive press Gabrielloni.
- Parsley: only a little bit, just enough so that the salmon, which can be a bit dopey, mistakes it for an Irish clover.
Once you have acquired all the ingredients, which I hope you are fortunate enough to find directly in loco, we need to prepare them so that the ‘syncretic dish’ is beautifully served. Therefore, arrange the slices of Irish salmon on a nice looking plate, if it’s inherited from a grandmother even better. Dress it with Eolian capers after giving them a good rinse, after all the taste of the Mediterranean will never be washed away. Add a few fine slices of these onions that retain the flavour of the countryside (and who knows whether these onions and capers are grown whilst watching each from afar, separated by the Tyrrhenian sea, waiting to encounter each other personally). Rain down on them a little freshly squeezed lemon juice so that this ‘rain’ evokes a sense of love and of Ireland itself (even the salmon will feel at home), and finish with a drizzle of olive oil made in the first Paradise Possible: Le Marche. Then, place alongside the plate a toasted piece of good quality bread, spread with a layer of warm salted butter. Eat patiently and thoughtfully in the company of those you love. Even if this is the typical starter at Christmas at our house, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a celebration or not: you are the celebration.
(The picture is taken from the website www.paintitblack.it)
So, all this to say what exactly? I will explain to you by telling you about a scene in the film Kissing Jessica Stein; a brilliant comedy from a few years ago that pulsed through my mind as I was writing. In the scene, the two protagonists Jessica and Helen speak about make-up whilst inside a taxi and Jessica compliments her friend on her perfect lips. So, Helen reveals to her in detail, her experimental method of applying three different lipsticks to her mouth, in such a way that she unites the positive peculiarities of each one. The scene closes with the advice that Helen gives to Jessica: “pay attention, mix!” and that summarises, metaphorically, the entire film. A piece of my own advice which I would like to extend to all our readers is this: mix, share, experiment and make the ‘Other the central point of your interest’, because there is no possible nor geographical paradise, no perfect hotel nor property, let alone food and wine, if there is not also a touch of risk and generosity.
The Paradise Trotter