Pisa: a little history
Pisa, of probable Ligurian origins and then submitted to the Etruscans entered quickly enough into the orbit of Rome, having already been a Latin colony as from the year 179 B.C., and being a port of notable importance at the time of the Roman Empire. Its fleet was very active also under the domination of the Lombards and under the Duchy of Tuscany, permitting it a certain political autonomy. This also permitted it to construct a network of contacts with various countries, contacts that, mostly military and commercial, influenced much on the customs and habits of not only Pisa but of the whole strip of the northern Maremma coast which still distinguishes itself today, in the culinary art, from that of the rest of the Tuscan region.
Pisa in fact between the X and the XI centuries was protagonist of a large offensive against Arab pirates in southern Italy, in Corsica, in Sardinia and along the African coast; successively, after the first Crusade, its rays of action extended also to the East. The military activities are interwoven with that of the merchants who, in the course of the XI and XII centuries, along the tracks of the Crusades, created a large network of colonies and bases with Florentine trade which permitted the introduction to the traditional cooking, based on fish, including many spices amongst which we bring to mind the well known saffron, coriander, nutmeg etc.,etc. All the spices advised in the recipes proposed by the Anonimo Toscano (Anonymous Tuscan) in the ‘Libro della Cocina’ (Book of Cookery) written in the course of the XIV century; for example in the recipe named «De interiori e budelli di pesci» (‘Of the interiors and guts of fish’) “The interiors of fish, washed and cut up not too finely, fried with oil and onion cut thinly; and then place with these good spices, saffron and finely chopped marjoram: make a paste with a little boiling water and take some soft crustless bread, chopped up well and made into a paste, also with a little water, and boil a little; and in the place of marjoram, it is possible to use cumin: if you wish the aforementioned broth may be made with un-peeled, crushed almonds, made into a paste with wine: and with these things, do not add saffron: throw in coriander seeds and meats, chopped up finely with sugar” But in this text, there are many fish-based preparations, from cuttlefish to squid, from octopus to red mullet and, as far as fresh water fish are concerned, trout. A testimony that marine cooking was already known and widely used in these areas of Tuscany. On board the sailing ships, plain meals were also eaten, like the well-known ‘bordatino livornese’, a polenta made with the water from cooking beans and seasoned with beans, some vegetables and a little oil, and at the most, with some slices of ‘pancetta’ (Italian spiced bacon).