Feasting with Falstaff

Composers are known for many things, but usually not for their taste in food. Some composers, however, not only enjoyed a good meal but were emphatic about their favorite cuisines—for instance, Mozart waxed eloquent in a letter about his love for liver dumplings and Beethoven did the same for his love of macaroni and cheese. Other opera composers have their characters consume vast amounts of food as part of the plot. The composer Verdi includes an incredible feast in his opera Macbeth and dedicates a whole opera to Falstaff, one of the most famous food lovers in operatic history. In the opening of the opera he informs the audience his bill at the Garter Inn includes (but is not limited to) 3 turkeys, 30 bottles of sherry and 6 chickens. Certainly anyone who can down 30 bottles of sherry and still have room for six chickens is a gastronomical wonder!

Recipe for Falstaff’s Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken, rinsed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Herbs de Provence (or herbs of choice)
  • 1 onion, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 lb. carrots, peeled and halved
  • 1/2 lb. golden potatoes, scrubbed and halved
  1. Place chicken in a dutch oven and preheat oven to 325 F. 
  2. Drizzle chicken generously with olive oil, then season with salt and herbs. 
  3. Arrange onions, carrots, and potatoes around chicken and cover dutch oven with lid. Place in preheated oven and bake for 2 hours, or until the juice run clear. Serve with rice, rolls, or salad. 

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