The long Columbus Day weekend is almost here. As far as I can tell, the celebrations started sometime in late September, maybe sooner, and just keep going and going. At least the furniture stores and automobile dealerships seem to celebrate Columbus Day for weeks on end. Every year, they hold never-ending, mega Columbus Day blowout sales. Or maybe they just seem to last forever. These deals come right on the heels of the back-to-school and Labor Day extravaganzas, immediately morph into Veterans Day discounts and then finally merge with Black Friday and Christmas markdowns.
But anyway, who was this guy who sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred and ninety-two? What’s his story? Back in elementary school, he was the hero who discovered America. All the Italian-American kids in the neighborhood loved it that an Italian had discovered America. With my Danish and Swedish roots, I felt just as proud when archeological remains of Viking settlements were found in Newfoundland. The digs proved that Scandinavians discovered North America four centuries before the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria left Spain. I kept waiting for a Leif the Lucky Day. I’m still waiting.
Columbus’ story is complicated. There is Columbus the hero. He’s the one who convinced the King and Queen of Spain that the earth was round and the shortest route to China was due west. They funded his trip and he discovered America. Ferdinand and Isabella rewarded Columbus with great wealth and made him governor of the new lands.
Then there is the greedy, criminal and cruel Columbus. In this saga, Columbus screws up and dies in debtors’ prison while another Italian, Amerigo Vespucci gets two continents named after him. Amerigo’s maps as well as his letters and journals eternally tie his name to South America. North America was thrown in during the bonus round. Marketing gurus love to applaud Amerigo. They suggest that Columbus, with a bit of effort, could have, should have, would have had the two continents named for him.
Like most gurus, these marketing types are both right and wrong. Yes, Vespucci’s early maps granted him the honor of having two continents as namesakes. And yes, Columbus was a great sailor but he was also a cranky tyrant and ineffective governor. He was such a nasty guy and poor manager that early settlers rebelled and sent him back to Spain in chains.
However, the story of Columbus dying, impoverished, in debtors’ prison; that’s a myth. He did return to Spain in chains and languished in prison for a month, maybe two. Before long, Ferdinand felt sorry for him and released him. After all, he was a national hero. The King restored most of Columbus’ wealth and titles and equipped him for another voyage to the New World. That said, he was still a nasty guy and Ferdinand never, ever let him govern again.
Regardless of what the marketing gurus say, for a vile dude, Chris did remarkably well. Sure, there is no South Columbus or North Columbia but scores of cities, districts, states, universities and even a country are named for him. And let’s not forget there is no Vespucci Day but Columbus Day is celebrated by millions with time off, parades and furniture markdowns.
Anyway, have a great weekend, enjoy the extra day off and bon appétit!
1 loaf ciabatta or baguette bread, sliced about 1/2-inch-thick
Pesto Oil (recipe follows)
8 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
About 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Arrange 16 bread slices on a baking sheet and bake until golden, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the toasts from oven and use a basting brush to brush the warm toasts with Pesto Oil.
Meanwhile, put the tomatoes in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.
Mound the chopped tomatoes on the toasts and sprinkle with goat cheese, place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until heated through, about 8 minutes.
Transfer the bruschetta to a serving platter, sprinkle with pine nuts, drizzle with a little Pesto Oil and serve.
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, gently packed
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Put the herbs, garlic, lemon juice and salt and pepper in a small food processor or blender and pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly add the oil and process until the herbs and garlic are finely chopped and incorporated into the oil.
Let the oil sit for an hour at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator to mix and meld the flavors.
Print-friendly version of this post.
One Year Ago – Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers
Two Years Ago – Roasted Sausages with Caramelized Onions, Broccoli Rabe & Polenta
Three Years Ago – Lobster Mac & Cheese
Four Years Ago – Sausage, Kale & Potato Soup
Five Years Ago – Soupe au Pistou
Six Years Ago – Mulled Cider
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
How will you spend Columbus Day weekend? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.