One of the best meals I had was the first in Rome. It was a simple bowl of spaghetti with tomatoes and basil. Think red. We were all tired and hungry, wanting to get into our apartments, ditch the luggage and set out in search of food. But there was no one there with our keys. Fortunately for us, a restaurant was a few feet from our door. We hauled our belongings over to a vacant table setting on the cobbled street, and in no time at all we were gorging on carbs.
In “Campo dei Fiori” Czeslaw Milosz reminds us that the “cobbles spattered with wine and the wreckage of flowers” are the same cobbles over which Giordano Bruno was burned. Does Milosz dare to compare Rome’s hunger for blood with their hunger for food? Or is he accusing the Romans of indifference to death? Soon after “his [Bruno] burning . . . they were back at their wine or peddled their white starfish, baskets of olives and lemons . . . and he already distanced as if centuries had passed while they paused just a moment for his flying in the fire.”
It seems pretty calloused to return to food while the pyre has not yet cooled, but when I think about my first meal in Rome, I have to admit the ease with which I focused on the meal, forgetting “those dying here, the lonely forgotten by the world.” I could have been anywhere in the world that day; it wouldn’t have changed my hunger.