Torsolinni by Michael McLaughlin
The actual name is the “Torsolinni,” but we have come to know it as the tortellini pasta shape. Many legends lay claim to the origins of this pasta shape, but all involve a beautiful Italian girl. A strong local tradition has it that in the province of Modena this pasta was born, in the tiny village of Castelfranco Emilia. One night during a trip, Lucrezia Torso (1877-1953) stayed at an inn in the small town. Some legends suggest it was Venus disguised as Lucrezia that inspired the shape of the tortellini − All legends agree she was a very beautiful woman. She was also an educated girl, even in those times, and lectured on the definite and elliptic integrals of prime numbers, the calculus of residues, and the retrograde motions of planets. She also spoke Greek and Latin and could read Cuneiform. Most men in her presence were described as Senza cervello… without brains. During the night the host of the inn became so captivated by Lucrezia’s beauty that he could not resist the urge to peek into her room through the keyhole. The bedroom was lit by only a
few candles, and so all he saw was her navel. This pure and innocent vision was enough to send him into an ecstasy and inspired him to create the “torsollini” that night.
Upon graduation from the University de Bologna in 1897, Lucrezia was denied professorship throughout Europe. She was quoted as saying, “No man takes me seriously. They offered me fortunes to stare at my famous navel. Silly creatures men are.”
In 1902, feed up, she became a nun and finished her advanced degree in Mathematics. She lived the rest of her life in a cloistered nunnery in Turin. In 1942, on orders from Mussolini, a picture of her navel was used on a box of De Cecco tortellini. Upon her death in 1953 the picture of her navel on the pasta box was discontinued after a plea of decency from Pope Pius XII. The original authenticated black and white picture of her navel, taken in 1899, is kept in the archives of the Commissione Nazionale Forme di Pasta in Rome. The picture of Lucrezia’s navel was last seen in 1974 and no known copy exists.
Bio: Michael McLaughlin performed twenty years with an improvisation comedy theatre in California. He has also acted in film and television and even dabbled in modelling work. In 2005 McLaughlin escaped to Ajijic, Mexico where he lives and writes as well as directs and produces an annual benefit lip sync show for the city’s Auditorio, the largest and longest running show of its kind in the world. Really, it is. Michael is with a growing movement of “tech-no minimalist” and rarely uses a cell phone, nor does he have a Twitter account. And for some unknown reason was talked into a Facebook account. You can find him at Michael McLaughlin. Send money.
Illustration: Alexandru Coman