Thursday, January 20, 2011

Enigma del Carbone

A king once lost his way, and happened to come to the house of a poor charcoal maker.  The man, though obviously poor, welcomed the king graciously and offered him what little food there was in the house.

Seeing the charcoal maker's humble condition, the king was filled with curiosity and said to the man, "Tell me, my good man, how much money do you get from making and selling charcoal?”

"Ten cents a day, Your Majesty,” the man answered.

"Ten cents a day! And you manage to survive?" asked the king in amazement.

"Oh yes, said the man cheerfully.”It is enough to live on.  And with that ten cents a day I also mange to pay a debt, save for my old age, and have something left to throw out the window."

"This I cannot believe," said the king.  "How is this possible?"

"Well,” said the man, "my aging mother lives with us, and caring for her pays the debt that I owe my parents.  And I care for my son whom I hope will care for me in my old age; thus, I save for the future.  And every so often I set aside another penny for my daughter's dowry, which is certainly like throwing money out the window."

The king chuckled.  "That is good.  Very good.  Now, you must do me a favor and promise not to tell that riddle again until you have seen my face 100 times."  To this the poor charcoal maker agreed.

The king's party soon came along.  The king reminded the man of his promise, and then he left.

Soon after, the king posed this same riddle to his court.  "How is it that a man who makes only ten cents a day can have enough to live, to pay a debt, to save for the future, and throw some out the window?  The first man to answer this within the next month will be freed from paying taxes for the rest of his life.

Everyone was baffled by this riddle, but after thought, one of the members of the court concluded, "The king asked this riddle right after he got lost and went to that poor man's hut.  He must have learned it there.” So he jumped on his horse and rode back to the place where the charcoal maker lived.

"You know, said the man, how a man can live on ten cents a day and still pay a debt, save for the future and throw some out the window.  "

"Yes," said the charcoal maker, “I know, but I may not tell you"

"I will pay you ten silver pieces,” said the man.

"No, I cannot tell you,” said the charcoal maker.

"Very well, I will giver you fifty silver pieces," said the man.

"No, I cannot tell you,” said the charcoal maker.

"What if I give you one hundred silver pieces?" said the man.

"Let me see the coins," said the charcoal maker.  After examining and counting them carefully, he said," Very well, I will tell you the answer," and he told the man the answer to the riddle.

 The man smiled, thanked the charcoal maker, and then road back to the court at once.  There he told the answer to the court, much to the astonishment of the king.

The king became furious. "Summon the charcoal maker at once," he cried.

The charcoal maker was brought into the court and made to stand before the king's throne.  "Did you tell the answer to the riddle?" asked the king.

"Yes. Your Majesty.”

"Why? You broke your word to me!" shouted the king. ”You will be beaten and thrown into prison for a year"

"I did not break my word to you, Your Majesty," answered the man humbly. "You said that I could tell the answer once I had seen your face one hundred times."

"But you have not seen my face again even once since the day I left your house"

"But, Your Majesty, replied the charcoal maker," I have.  “Your face is stamped on each of the silver coins I was given, and since there are one hundred of them, I have seen your face one hundred times.

At this the king was greatly impressed. He set the poor charcoal maker free, and gave him a gift of three bags of gold.

“One for your debt, one to invest, and one to throw out the window.”


Spaghetti Carbonara is a wonderful dish that is extremely simple in composition and extremely flavorful.

There are many conflicting opinions of how this wonderful dish originated.   One is that Italian charcoal makers - I carbonari – would travel with the ingredients on their expeditions.  The elements of Spaghetti Carbonara - dry pasta, pancetta and cheese – would be easy to pack and travel with.  They could easily collect eggs from various sources along the way.  It seems logical that the dish is named after these "carbonari" and it goes well with the story.

Nobody really knows how the dish originated, but it’s a good theory.

 Classic Spaghetti Carbonara

•           1/2 Pound Bacon, Salt Pork or Pancetta - Chopped
•           1 Tablespoon Chopped Garlic
•           Freshly Ground Black Pepper
•           1 Pound Fresh Spaghetti, Cooked Al Dente
•           4 Large Eggs, Beaten
•           Salt
•           1 Cup Freshly Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
•           1 Tablespoon Finely Chopped Fresh Parsley Leaves

In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy, about 6 minutes. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels.
 Pour off all of the oil except for 3 tablespoons. Add the garlic. Season with black pepper. Sauté for 30 seconds. Add the crispy bacon and the pasta. Sauté for 1 minute. Season the eggs with salt. Remove the pan from the heat and add the eggs, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble. 
Add the cheese and re-season with salt and pepper. Mound into serving bowls and garnish with parsley.

Seriously . . . NOM-dilly-icious!

All of the eggs I used in this recipe were courtesy of my good friends Stephanie and Phil.  
If you live in or near Connecticut and want farm fresh eggs, contact Stephanie for pricing and availability.

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