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The Story of the Most Powerful Woman in 16th Century Europe

1519 – 1589

By Rosario Mariani

In 1533, when Catherine de Medici was 14 years old, she married Henry II and moved to France. The thought of leaving her beloved, sophisticated Florence and moving to unrefined France gave her chills. She therefore brought with her several cooking paraphernalia, the “fork” in particular, as well as several master Florentine cooks to keep l’arte della cucina alive in the French royal palaces.

Foods never before seen in France were soon being prepared using utensils instead of using fingers and daggers. She introduced spinach, aspics, sweetbreads, artichoke hearts, truffles, liver crepinettes, quenelles of poultry, macaroons, ice cream and zabaglione, just to name a few.

In later years, she gained considerable influence and was considered the most powerful woman in 16th century Europe.

The Florentine cooks stayed with her for many years and they trained les garcons de cuisine to become great cooks. In due time, a new art form was created and prospered.

Next time you visit a French restaurant say Mille Mercis to Caterina de Medici.