Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Death and the Watermelon Appetizer by Cleo Coyle

For centuries, Italians have eaten fresh melons paired with prosciutto or another cured, salty meat. Though the combination is delicious, this was not a culinary tradition so much as a dietary precaution with a very long history.


In the hot summer of 1471, Pope Paul II dined on a refreshing meal of sliced cantaloupes, and he promptly dropped dead. Though the Pontiff likely perished of a massive coronary, congestione was blamed—stomach distress. 

The physicians decided that the pope's death must have been caused by eating three melons at a single sitting.

The news caused panic, but fortunately for melon farmers (and ultimately for us) Medieval medicine discovered a culinary "cure," and the Italian diet was changed forever.

To this day, folklore has it that if a cold food like melon is not balanced by a hot food like a spicy meat, the results could be deadly. The body might become chilled and one might risk a bout of indigestion, or even the dreaded congestione!

Cleo Coyle has a partner in 
crime-writing—her husband.
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Of course modern medicine debunks this notion, but the paring of melon and meat has stuck around because, well, it’s tasty. And refreshing. 

So why am I bringing you this tale today? Because it's the start of summer, time for tasty and refreshing ideas...like this one.

Last summer, Marc and I learned about a hot, young executive chef (very young, age 19!) who was packing a Hamptons' restaurant with his culinary flare. His pairing of watermelon with pork belly as an amuse-bouche was not a wholly original idea, but it sounded like a delicious one to us.

We didn't have pork belly (i.e., uncured bacon) on hand, but we had cured bacon (close enough), so we sliced up some sizzling strips into bite-sized pieces and affixed them with toothpicks to juicy chunks of watermelon.

Sweet-savory heaven!

Bacon and Watermelon Appetizer

A quick culinary hack of a young
Hamptons' chef's amuse-bouche...

The salty, crisp bacon and sweet, juicy melon are a combination to die for. And if you're a superstitious Italian, they may just prevent that untimely end!

We highly recommend it for a fun, refreshing, and slightly different summer appetizer. Try it, your guests will thank you!

And how about that bacon?

A BLT with fresh garden tomatoes is also a summer treat to savor, but sweating over a hot stove top is no joy at all. My solution is one many of you may already employ yourselves. I bake my bacon in the oven, and it comes out beautifully every time. To see a past post on how I do it click above or click here. And...

May you...

Eat with summer joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries 

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The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
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* * *

Once Upon a Grind:
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Reviewer's Pick - King's River Life 

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Delicious recipes are also featured in our 14th 
culinary mystery, Once Upon a Grind, including...

* Cinderella Pumpkin Cake 
* Snow White Chocolate Mocha 
* "Fryer Tuck's" Ale-Battered Onion Rings 
* Poor Man's Caviar * Black Forest Brownies 
* Cappuccino Blondies 
* Shrimp Kiev * Turkish Coffee
* Bosnian Coffee 
* Dr Pepper Glazed Chicken 
* Caramel-Dipped Meltaways 
* Silver Dollar Chocolate Chip Cookies

...and many more recipes, including 
a guide to reading coffee grinds...

See the book's
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Thanks for stopping by the Kitchen! 

~ Cleo


  1. Looks wonderful Cleo--and you're such a master of finding something simple but delish! Happy summer to you and Marc!

  2. Hmmm, that sounds interesting. Need to get some watermelon...

  3. Clever you!
    I hadn't heard the story about the Pope. Interesting.
    Baking bacon (sounds right, doesn't it?) works so well.

  4. Great story, Cleo! The Popes must have keeled over from food pretty regularly. When I was doing research, I learned that a Pope was poisoned by chocolate. Poor guys! I bet some of them had testers to make sure the food was safe to eat!

  5. When I was growing up, we used to eat watermelon with salt -- how much better with bacon! Can't wait to try it!

  6. Love it, what a great story.
    My favorite part of the warm weather months, watermelon, and since everything is better with bacon, why not.

  7. Not only do I have a half of a red ripe delicious watermelon in my refrigerator, I happen to also have a pound of bacon too. So tomorrow I will make these while my husband is golfing and have them when he gets home. With any luck he won't want any or many and I can end up with all the rest. :) Two of my favorite foods. I do love Italian ham and cantaloupe or honeydew melon already so should be great.
    I had pork belly as an appetizer at one of the best restaurants around our area on Mother's Day and it was glazed in a fig puree and was delicious but I would have liked it to be more crisp than it was. Slightly disappointed with it being soft not a bit more like bacon. Not an expert on pork belly yet so maybe it was supposed to be soft, but I will take bacon any day.
    Thank you for the idea of tomorrow's snack. You are so great!!!

    Cynthia B