Probably the most disturbing Bible story — at least to high-minded epicureans food snobs like Pax Arcana — is that of the transubstantiation. According to mainstream Christian dogma, Jesus turned the wine and bread served at the last supper into his blood and body. (And lo did his disciples say unto him “Aw, gurrrg, awww… what the F Jesus?” as they did spit bits of soft tissue and coagulated hemoglobin upon the ground).
But what about the other stuff? In Leonardo DaVinci’s masterpiece The Last Supper, bread and wine are not the only victuals on the table. There are plates of heretofore unidentified dishes scattered about the table-top. The rapid decay of the painting — writings from as far back as 1517 had already noted that it “had begun to spoil” — rendered many of the finer details of the work, including the actual type of food on the table, impossible to discern.
According to an article in Gastronomica (via Boing Boing), the mystery has now been solved. The 1997 restoration of The Last Supper has revealed that Jesus — at least in DaVinci’s imagination — spent his final evening pounding not only bread and wine, but also grilled eels.
Turns out the possibly-vegetarian DaVinci was likely inserting a bit of his own culture into the scene:
The eels in the Last Supper may or may not have been on Leonardo’s diet, but they certainly enhance the realism of the representation. Eels were especially popular in Renaissance Italy because they could survive out of water for days and be easily transported in grass-filled baskets or, once dead, be preserved in brine.15 According to Bartolomeo Scappi, the best ones came from Comacchio, near Ferrara. G.B. Rossetti, another sixteenth-century author, gives thirty different recipes for preparing them.
What is most remarkable about all of this is how it confirms my belief that I am an artistic visionary on par with DaVinci. In my own artistic interpretation of the life and meaning of Jesus, I also intimated that he ate eels before his crucifixtion.
OK, so they were electric eels. What are you, some kind of art critic now?
Last Supper Menu revealed: mmm, delicious eels [Boing Boing]
At Supper With Leonardo [Gastronomica PDF]