Angels, cocktails and cakes
“When one has tasted watermelon he knows what the angels eat.”
In Rome, in front of the Castello Sant'Angelo is the Ponte Sant'Angelo a bridge which is decorated, to Bernini's design, with ten angels, each holding a symbol of the Passion of Christ. Bernini sculpted two of them and the rest were done by the best sculptors of the time. I took the photograph above - the Angel with the sponge, which was made by Antonio Giorgetti, on our penultimate visit to Rome, when we visited the Castello. Here be angels - in the castle and across the bridge and they are not at all namby-pamby delicate creatures. The one on the top of the castle even brandishes a sword. The sponge, this particular angel is holding, in case you had forgotten, was a sponge soaked in vinegar and offered to Christ on the cross. Opinion seems to differ as to whether this was cruel or kind.
I have chosen this particular photograph for my computer's desktop background for a few days - I use photos from here and there in my collection, so whilst gazing at it when searching the brain for inspiration for a food blog I wondered what searching for angels and food would come up with.
Angel food cake of course, which I will come back to, but pretty soon I came up with a cocktail named The Guardian Angel, which seems to be some sort of cocktail which has knocked everyone for six. All the commentaries I found said that the list of ingredients was crazy and one's immediate thought was that it couldn't work, but that actually it did in an amazing way. Those ingredients are very specific - All of those reviewers seemed to say that the particular brands, not just the kind of alcohol, must be used. And these are: 1.25 oz Amaro Montenegro; .75 oz Wray and Nephew Overproof Rum; .75 oz Orgeat; .75 oz Lime Juice; 3 Drops Rosewater; 2-3 Slices cucumber - yes cucumber, which you 'muddy' - whatever that means. I have no idea what half of those ingredients are but give it a try if you are into cocktails, although I have to say the end result doesn't look that appetising for me. But it doesn't end with this trendy cocktail.
Because I had a search query of angels and food - and Google for some reason includes drinks as food - well maybe I'm being unfair, maybe I entered angels and recipes I found an amazing number of cocktails associated with angels. I'm not giving the links here - they are easily found if you are interested but here is a gallery of them. And I know for a fact that this is not all - there are many more. One site had a list of 83! So here we have: Satin Angel; Bamboozled Angel, Angel's Face; Nutty Angel; Fallen Angel; Angel's Delight; Archangel and Blue Angel.
Well maybe there is a link between cocktails and angels. I found that there is one of those management gurus called David JP Phillips who came up with a theory about the power of storytelling (well it's all about management techniques and selling really); of which one element:
"refers to the hormones & neurotransmitters released by a good story : dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins, as the “angel’s cocktail.”
And another commentator on his theory, Ashley Evenson, says:
"Dopamine. Creating a story that will leave people wanting more. This is the first ingredient in Angel’s Cocktail. This is how excellent storytellers bring the audience to them. They put something out into the world almost by way of a secret. There is an intrigue. This is just the tip of the iceberg. It is the door that you need to see where it leads."
Well I guess there is a sort of connection there. Cocktails are expensive and I guess the intrigue of the mixture is what sucks you in. Storytelling through a drink. Well it's a bit of a long bow, but anyway - there were heaps and heaps of cocktails with Angel in the name - well at least 83 - there are probably more by now.
And before we leave drinks there is yet another TikTok sensation called Angel Milk. I'm not sure why it's such a sensation as it seems to be just steamed milk, sugar and vanilla extract - plus pink colouring. Well it seems you can colour it any colour you want. Hmm. Sugary milk - what's so amazing about that?
But on to food, where the offerings are few and far between. To my surprise I have to say.
I'm not really counting Angelhair pasta, although it is a thing of course. But it's just a kind of pasta. No, the real angel kind of food is cake - Angel Food Cake in fact. And this is it (below) in its classic form. Which I have to say does not tempt. But let's persevere for it is indeed a classic and classics must have something to be a classic mustn't they?
It's a nineteenth century thing - in fact from the southern states. And I have to say that picture looks very nineteenth century. The first recipe for a white sponge cake was published in Kentucky in 1839 and the first recipe for Angel's Food Cake was in 1878. It's made from just three basic ingredients, egg whites, flour and sugar, with a bit of cream of tartar to help the whipping of the eggs, because really it's just a meringue with some flour added to it. No butter - well no fat of any kind. So next time you have a heap of egg whites from something - and I do mean lots - give it a go. I suppose there are therefore fewer calories, but let's not forget the sugar. It's light:
"so light that angels could eat it and still fly without being weighted down" Krystina Castella
Hence it's name I suppose. Even though the angels on the Ponte Sant'Angelo look rather more muscular than light. Even their wings look strong rather than feathery. They'd need to be to lift them and keep them up in the air.
Of course mostly people don't make plain versions like the one above. The recipe on the Serious Eats website from Stella Parks seems to me to be most informational recipe and apparently it's slightly modified to take into account electric mixers and lack of time. Traditionally you are supposed to beat the egg whites by hand - a method that takes skill and energy, but Stella Parks, in a rather neat variation on Michael Jackson's song says:
"You have to show them that you're really not scared
You're playin' with meringue, this ain't no truth or dare
You'll whip them and you'll beat them and you'll tell them it's fair
So beat it. Just beat it."
In your electric mixer. With the result of something effortless but perfectly light and tasty:
"It's pillowy-soft, as light as cotton candy and just as tender, too. Its sweetness is tempered by a generous spoonful of salt and the toasted flavor of its lightly browned crust, plus an aromatic dose of vanilla. The sort of cake that's worthy of your time, not demanding of it." Stella Parks/Serious Eats
Really it's a kind of blank canvas for skilled decorators to have fun - and here are a few I found: Polka dot angel food cake; White Christmas angel food cake with rose and prosecco syrup and Mary Berry's Lemon curd angel food cake. Easy to find if you are interested. It's obviously all in the icing.
I did like this put down of the angel food cake thing though:
“Angel food cake could never be the food legitimate angels eat, because in heaven you can eat steak and chocolate and very expensive cheese. The angels who feed on this cake are the kind that show up in Thomas Kinkade paintings or sing backup for Corey Feldman.” Allison Robicelli
So having ignored angel hair pasta is there anything else that is food for the angels? Not a lot. The Americans - the rest of us don't seem to be interested in angels - have a couple of other things - some biscuits made with yeast - Angel biscuits and something that looks suspiciously like a Crunchy Bar called Angel Food Christmas Candy. Also airy I suppose - well not the chocolate. The Poles are the only other contributors to angel food with their Faworki - which translates as Angel Wings and is a dough deep fried and sugared.
I once read a rather wonderful romantic novel called The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox which was a long love story between a vintner and a rather sexy fallen angel. And books and films about angels do seem to be very popular. They are interesting things angels - simultaneously ethereal and militant.
So all I can say at the end of my searching is that if angels do indeed eat then it isn't anything healthy. But then those muscular angels on the bridge might be happier with steak and very expensive cheese.
Or maybe they would be happier with Mark Twain's watermelon. That's very light too, so light it's almost not there, although at the same time a whole watermelon is very heavy. Yes a perfect choice for an angel.