Fly on the wall

Saturday 17 October 2015 — Port-O-Call: East River, NYC (in my mind) — birth anniversary of Pope John Paul I (1912)

Now that the media frenzy has subsided, I must admit amazement at how much information about Pope Francis’ visit was instantly available through the media. We knew where the pope happened to be at any given moment, what he was saying, and to whom he was saying it. Good Heavens. Is there no privacy? Why, it seems every detail of the pope’s visit was public knowledge except what he had for lunch!

In the name of total transparency, I will now reveal to you, dear readers, what the pope had for lunch. This will fill in an information gap and complete my housemate Father Francis X. Wallace’s extensive file on the subject. 

I remotely piloted a drone into the dining room of the Vatican’s Apostolic Nunciature (its embassy to the United Nations) — a townhouse near Madison Avenue. My covert device was shaped like an ordinary housefly. It even buzzed like a fly. 

First, a bit of a preamble: according to the Vatican, in April, the pontiff was advised by his doctors to eat less pasta and walk more. They hoped weight loss would take the strain off his aching back (the pope suffers from sciatica).

The diet and exercise plan must be working. At the age of 78, the Holy Father had such a packed agenda that it would have exhausted a person half his age. When he returned to Rome from his grueling trip to the United States, he promptly convened the Synod on the Family. But I digress.

The fact that the pope dines frugally should come as no surprise. He eats whatever is being served to the other guests at table, of course, but his portion is prepared more simply. He is not fond of herbs or spices. He prefers his food plain and rather bland. The pope generally follows his doctors’ advice and passes on the pasta. This raises eyebrows in Italy. He likes vegetables, but doesn’t eat greens or any vegetables containing seeds. While at table in New York, he didn’t touch the wine. Instead, the pope drank water with his meals. Again, this must have raised eyebrows in Italy. He favors a brand of non-carbonated Italian bottled water. He prefers his Santa Fina room temperature, not iced. 

Inflight between Washington D.C., New York, and Philadelphia, the papal entourage snacked on flatbread dipped in olive oil and on pecan-cranberry-rosemary fruitcake. Unfortunately, my fly-drone didn’t function properly on the plane; it must have been interference from the plane’s operating systems. As a result, I don’t know for sure if the pope sampled the munchies.

My fly-drone worked perfectly in New York City, however. So, here’s the scoop on what the pope had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

 At his first supper in the Apostolic Nunciature, the meal began with chicken soup. This will undoubtedly inspire a new book entitled “Chicken Soup for the Pope,” that will be added to the already extensive “Chicken Soup for” series. Technically, it wasn’t chicken but rooster soup (capon). 

The entrée was steamed lobster. How things have changed. Back in the days of the Pilgrims, during that first winter, the colonists were faced with disease and starvation. When the second boat of settlers arrived on the “Speedwell” in the spring, they were served what Governor Bradford referred to as “the food of savages.” These were the lobsters that could then be found crawling all over the rocks in Plymouth Harbor. Some of the newly-arrived Pilgrims were so disgusted with this wretched fare that they promptly turned around and sailed back to England. I am not making this up. See “Governor Bradford’s Journal.”

The pope’s cook wisely provided an alternative of veal. A tomato salad was served with cheese. The side dish that evening was corn. For dessert, there was angel food cake with grape sorbet. 

Friday breakfast was a matter of debate. Should it be served at 6:45 a.m. or 7 a.m.? The pope settled the dispute by announcing breakfast would be at 9 a.m. Breakfast on both days included bakery goods, jams, fruit, yogurt, frittata, crepes, and juice.

Friday lunch was an assortment of vegetables, cheeses, and fruits. One New York restaurateur claims the pope skipped out of the embassy and had lunch at his Argentinian eatery. This is unlikely. 

Friday supper was tuna fish or grilled bass, with squash and onions. For dessert, there was apple pie à la mode. His Holiness splurged with a cup of coffee.

Did you happen to notice the priest following closely behind the pope throughout the pastoral visit? That was Msgr. Mark Miles. He works in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. He’s the pope’s translator. He speaks Spanish and English. 

Well, don’t you know, Msgr. Miles spotted my fly-drone during Saturday’s breakfast. He unobtrusively rolled up a copy of the L’Osservatore Romano newspaper and whacked it. 

And that, dear readers, was the end of the fly on the wall. The rest of the pope’s meals is lost to history.

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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