Goslings in Decameron

Step 1 of 3

“They are called goslings”

And so it befell that, while son and father were thus occupied in asking and answering questions, they encountered a bevy of damsels, fair and richly arrayed, being on their return from a wedding; whom the young man no sooner saw, than he asked his father what they might be. “My son,” answered the father, “fix thy gaze on the ground, regard them not at all, for naughty things are they.” “Oh! ” said the son, “ and what is their name?” The father, fearing to awaken some mischievous craving of concupiscence in the young man, would not denote them truly, to wit, as women, but said: “They are called goslings.”

This painting of 2013 by Meli Valdés Sozzani brings together Boccaccio himself, his Decameron and the gosling. It is the gosling that takes the center stage in the novella that we will discuss in this tour. It is the only work of art that seems to make a direct link to the novella in its original formBecause later reworkings of the novella have found their way into art. We will discuss that in the extension of the next step . In the painting we see Boccaccio holding the bird firmly under his ‘wing’, as if he is protecting it. At the same time, he is pressing his finger resolutely on his book. He wants to make a point. What were Boccaccio’s thoughts on goslings?

The farmers of medieval Italy, for sure, would look at the raising of geese as a sound investment. They were a good source of high fat, high calorie and high protein food; they were also "watchdogs" against intruders, and for the most part, geese provided for themselves by grazing for garden pests and were also happy to eat kitchen scraps. Keeping geese around was very actually very smart. From L’oca: Italy’s Love Affair with the Goose -Jerry Finzi 1/8/2019 The story of the holy geese of the Campidoglio illustrates the importance of the geese’s function as “watchdogs”. They saved the city of Rome by making a racket when the Gauls secretly enter the Piazza del Campidoglio at the top of Capitoline Hill at night.See Oche del Campidoglio. To honor the geese, an annual festive procession was held on August 3rd, parading the holy birds throughout the city

The bird became very popular in the rich upper circles in medieval society; especially in the epoch of the Decameron this bird was considered a symbol of high prestige. It already became a very important ingredient in the kitchen at the beginning of the 13th century. A lot of Italian cookbooks had integrated recipes on the preparation of geese.There was even an entire page dedicated to the preparation in the De honesta voluptate et valetudine written by Bartolomeo Scappi. One of the founding fathers of the renaissance culinary cuisine was Maestro Martino da Como, born in the duchy of Milan. He made the transition from the old medieval Roman way of cooking (with an abundant use of spices) to the new method of food preparation in which the recipes had a more culinary level with fewer but simple, fresh, and pure ingredients. His cookbook Libro de Arte Coquinaria is an illustration of this new method of cooking. In medieval cuisine the goose played a very important role, to the extent that it became a major dish at the tables of the feudal lords.See Percorso gastronomico dell'oca attraverso la storia Cenni sull'oca nelle civiltà antiche(http://it.ocasforzesca.eu/storia.html) The consumption of the prepared flesh of a goose was also considered an aphrodisiac, supposedly enhancing the virility of the men.See [Il simbolismo dell’oca] (http://www.astercenter.it/animali/oca/oca.html)

But why does Boccaccio use goslings in his novella? Let us first retell the story of Filippo Balducci, and then return to this web-footed bird.