The Ides of March – Brutus’ Skewered Parmesan and Bologna with Aged Balsamic Vinegar

The Ides of March

“Let’s carve him as a dish fit for the gods…” Julius Cesar 2, 1 

Shakespeare had a thing for Italian regional cuisine, with many of his most popular dishes having a distinctly Italic flavor. Brutus’ “Skewered Parmesan and Bologna” is one of those, a re-working of the noted international food writer Plutarch’s “Parallel Recipes”. This version, however, adds many anachronistic elements from Anglo-Saxon pop culture. The lovely Top Chef host Padma along with noted British chef Jamie Oliver appear as judges in the 2nd scene; Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement, appears as a freaked-out weirdo near the end of the 1st scene; and Shakespeare himself makes a cameo appearance as, well, himself.

    The recipe depicts a conspiracy by Oscar Mayer, a large food multinational represented by Tony Baloney, against traditional, smaller central Italian lunchmeat makers. Its somewhat pessimistic tonality in the first act probably reflects the general global anguish over the uncontrollable distribution of counterfeit Chinese food products present at the time of its writing. The basic recipe itself – cubes of freshly cut Parmigiano Reggiano and high-quality Mortadella topped with a few drops of aged Balsamic vinegar – is instead a classic appetizer not from Rome but the region of Emilia-Romagna.  

The Ingredients of the Dish:

Mortadella and other Italian cold cuts*

The Ides of March

An Oscar Mayer sampler basket

Lots of Toothpicks 

*try Cesar and Sons: Best Italian Cold cuts brand

The Chefs of the Recipe:

Brutus – a small, quality lunchmeat maker

Lucius – his helper

Cassius – a broke-back Italian Senator

Tony Baloney– ex-lunchmeat maker, now a spokesperson for Oscar Mayer.

Octavius – his helper. Or vice-versa

Carlo Petrini – a soothsayer

Chefs Shakespeare, Padma, Jamie Oliver – judges

Diners – rich, middle class, plebian, whatever. Serves all Roman citizens Act 1, sc.14 

Rome. Enter Cassius, reading a magazine, a toothpick in his mouth, and Brutus and Lucius. Some diners are sitting at tables over the stage 

Cassius: Good Bru’, did you see this? Oscar Mayer won the people’s choice ‘best baloney’ award. Again. 

Brutus: Third time in row. Oscar doth bestride the baloney world like a Colossus. 

Cassius: Noble Brutus, not if thundering Jove had spoken from highest, tall Olympus could such a bad concept find better words. 

Brutus: Good words are better than bad salami, dear Cassius. 

Cassius: Man, this pisses me off. Have people gotten that lazy? Too much time watching CSI, or chatting in a 2nd life? Said company would have men in this world’s

First life that are fat, sleek-headed, and high-

Cholesteroled, with unnatural

Flavor in unnaturally stuffed guts.

What is the world coming to? Anyway.

What time is the award ceremony tomorrow? 

Brutus: You mean the Slow Food annual March cold cut expo? 12:30. And get this: Tony will be representing Oscar Mayer this year. 

Cassius: No way! 

Brutus: Way. He sold his operation to them a few months ago. 

Cassius: Really? I didn’t know. But my sweet Bru’,Your long and flavored salami is sure

To again retrieve their bluest, dearest

Ribbon. Yours is the best-aged meat in Rome.

Lucius: Yeah, well, my broken back master, hold ye’ horses. There’s a rumor that Tony’s been bribing the judges. Something to do with Mayer and that WTO international copy write treaty changed. You know, so they can use names like Tuscan Felino Salami and Parma Prosciutto on their own contra-felino and contra-parma-ed stuff. They figure they’ll get less resistance if they can show they make a quality product. 

Cassius: Well we’ll just see about that.

Tony’s a Villain. 

Lucious:             You are a senator. 

Cassius:                                              Touché. 

Enter Petrini, the soothsayer, a salami in his hand 

Petrini: A good cold cut eases into your stomach but once; a bad one burps up on ya’ a thousand times. Beware the Mayers of March! 

Thunder. The sky darkens. Exit Petrini 

Brutus: Who was that? Lucius: Some weirdo. I see him hanging out around here all the time. Always munching on something. But, like, real slow. 

Again thunder. All three nod. Exit all Act 1, sc.15 

Enter (at one door) chef Shakespeare, Padma and Jamie Oliver taking their seats behind a table at center stage. Toothpicks in the middle. Flourish. Enter (at another door) Cassius, Brutus, Tony Baloney and then Lucius and Octavius carrying trays of cold cuts, followed by several diners who seat themselves at smaller tables on either side where samples already sit in small mounds. Another flourish 

Padma: Welcome salumi makers. 

Chef Shakespeare: Welcome all to this blessed gathering,

This hall, this buffet, this well processed pork,

This Italy, this teeming womb of cold cuts. 

Jamie: Tha’s wha’ it’s all abou’. Sharin’ the best Italian cold cuts wi’ good peeople who care ‘bout goo’ food. An’ together tryin’ to decide who’s the best ‘o the lot. 

Padma: Brutus, Tony, after careful deliberations we have judged your salumi to be the best in the competition. Before we make our final decision we would like each of you to make his case as to why we should choose their lunchmeat. 

Lucius and Octavius set their trays on the center table 

Diner one: Dear, would you pass the ketchu… 

Diner two: Sh-h-h! Good’ol Bru’s giving his speech. I wanna’ hear this. 

Brutus: Ladies, gents, gourmets… I’m no Obama when it comes to public speaking. Hell even my dog falls asleep when I talk to him, so I’ll make this short and flavorful. Now don’t get me wrong; I respect Oscar Mayer. I think it’s a fine company. I admire their success. They gainfully employ thousands of people and I’m grateful to them for that. But their cold cuts, let’s face it, taste like something between a dried pickle and wet Kleenex – with a slight bend toward the pickle. You need about a gallon of mustard just to knock’em down your throat. But if they win here, well, could be that a lot of us little guys who really do care about quality get bought out or go out of business. So let’s not say that I don’t appreciate Oscar Mayer, but that I appreciate tasty salami more. Anyway, thank you all and, down the hatch. 

Diner three: Man, that Brutus is a real hoot. 

Diner six: And he makes the most kick-butt lunch meats. 

Padma: Good Brutus, well spoken. Judges, your toothpicks. 

Everyone takes a toothpick and skewers a cube of lunchmeat. Silence, then lots of mmms and ahhs and head nodding. Applause 

Diner twelve: Fan-freaking-tastic! 

Diner sixteen: Blue ribbon, definitely! 

Padma: Brutus, well done. Now, representing Oscar Mayer, Tony, make your case. 

Tony: Ladies, gentlemen, Romans, (coughs) if you’ll please

Lend me your ears a minute; I come not

To bury noble Brutus’ lunch meat but

To praise it. The plastic-flavored cold cuts

That multinationals with speed create,

Occupy eye-level shelves long after

The due-date of higher moraled produce,

I know, and oft that better is interred

Unsold into supermarket trash bins.

The noble Brutus hath told you Oscar

Is that problem’s part, that they have deep greed,

That Mayer meat’s are flavored without art,

Artificially. And Brutus makes aGreat cold cut. Yet do you all not recall

Those loving Wonder sandwiches we ate,

That dear mom used to make us long ago? 

Diner ninety-three: Yeah, I remember when we used to trade sandwiches in elementary school. 

Diner one hundred and five: I hated my mom’s baloney sandwiches. 

Diner twelve: But there was always an Italian kid that got to eat good stuff? 

Diner seven: Vinnie Russo. Vinnie always had the best lunches. 

Tony: Did not our boloney have a first name?

Was it not spelled O-S-C-A-R?

Diner two: I remember that tune.

Tony: And does it still not have a second name?

Is it not spelled M-A-Y-E-R?

I still love to eat it, everyday. Why?

Because they do not buy to undue but

With their salami-maker takeovers

Well pay and the better learn to better

Please all of Rome’s citizens’ hungry mouths.

Oscar Mayer, I say, does have a way

With their sweet B-O-L-O-G-N-A.

They are not part of any problem, but

It’s tastiest end, the solution’s hap-

Piest slice. What suspended reason holds

You all then from enjoying this great meat?

Thank you, and let’s eat. Bon appetite. 

Padma: Tony, eloquent as always. Judges. 

Everyone takes a toothpick and skewers a cube of lunchmeat from their second piles. They chew and then start spitting out. Pfewahs and ewws 

Shakespeare: Yeach! It’s like swallowing an old rat. 

Jamie: Whoa! Mate, tha’ is truuely, truuely gnarly. 

Padma: Miserere! Porcos horribillis ad nauseum. 

Tony: Pray, what mischief is this? Octavius, toss me a bite. 

Octavius throws him a piece. Tony eats it, makes a strange face and then spits it out 

Tony: Oh treachery! Oh foul flavoring! Someone messed with my meat, man, this isn’t fair. 

Padma: Tony, you know the rules. Our judgment is final. Pack up your cold cuts and go. 

Tony: Man, that just ain’t right. (Begins to leave, pausing next to Brutus) Et tu, Brutè? 

Brutus: Don’t look at me. I only sliced the meat. Exits with Octavius 

Padma: Brutus, we have decided. Your lunchmeat

Is the noblest of them all. It contains

Harmonious flavor, and the spices

So well mixed within it that nature might

Stand up proudly and say to all the world:

“Now that is a salami!” 

Applause. Exeunt recipe

The real recipe:Ingredients:Bite-sized cubes of good quality mortadella, 60 grams per personThinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma, 30 grams per personBite-sized chunks of freshly cut Parmigiano Reggiano from the center of a cheese round, 50 grams per personAged Balsamic vinegarQuality extra-virgin olive oilFreshly grated Parmigiano ReggianoFinger slices of bread and focacciaGrissiniOlivesToothpicks
Simply place the cubes of Mortadella on one serving dish and the Parmigiano on another. Dribble lightly over both with aged balsamic vinegar. Place the olives in smaller bowls around the table. Take the Prosciutto and wrap it around the grissini, one slice for each stick of dried bread. Leave the bottom half of each grissini uncovered. Finally in one small, shallow bowl place equal parts of grated Parmigiano and e.v. olive oil. In another shallow bowl place 5-6 parts of e.v. olive oil and 1 part of aged balsamic vinegar. Guests can use these last two bowls as dipping sauces for the bread and focaccia slices. Serve with an unstructured red, maybe Lambrusco, or a good Prosecco. Best served in March.

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