A waiter, sporting a jaunty fedora, attempted to explain the restaurant’s name. ‘Rubirosa. He was from Europe. Italy, I think. I heard he was this man who used to be a playboy and he had sex with everyone, and then he became a librarian.’ After checking with the bartender on the facts, he returned. ‘He was Dominican! He was some badass cool playboy. And this pepper grinder was named after him’ – he pulled out a wooden two-footer. ‘You can imagine why.’ Indeed. Porfirio Rubirosa, the famous mid-century rake and rumoured assassin who, when asked about his line of work, claimed that women were his ‘full-time job,’ counted among his conquests Doris Duke (one of the world’s richest women at the time) and Marilyn Monroe. Rubirosa was also reportedly one of Ian Fleming’s inspirations for James Bond. What that has to do with this new Italian-American red-sauce-and-pizza joint in Nolita is hard to tell. …– from a restaurant review in the New Yorker by Shauna Lyon, editor of ‘Goings On About Town’
Eating at a place called RUBIROSA, you’d wonder what was coming up next! Perhaps that’s why the photograph accompanying the article has as its focal point: EXIT! Stick to calling your pepper grinder ‘Rubirosa’ and you’re on much firmer ground.
I’ve got Joseph to thank for my new peppermill. You know what sons and daughters are like when it comes to getting one up on their dad.
Speaking of which, I was on the phone to my sister Jane a couple of months ago, congratulating her and hubby Charlie on becoming first-time grandparents. I asked Jane what Charlie wanted to be called by the grandkids. We’re granny and grampy to ours. Actually Thea and Stephen call me ‘gruncle’ but hey, that’s another story.
Charlie thought they should call him “Cool dude,” she said. But then his daughter and two sons got together and put the kibosh on that – they reckoned it’d end up being shortened to ‘CD’, and who wants a seedy grandad.
I was going on at Joseph last year about our grinder because a part of the plastic surround that holds the grinding mechanism in place had broken off and we weren’t sure how much longer it’d keep working. I reminded him about the time the two of us had gone shopping for the thing when he was in his early teens.
He wouldn’t budge on a piddly little ball of a thing with a winding handle, but I really wanted a greatly scaled down version (Minuscolorosa?) of a Rubirosa. Not that I’d ever heard of the guy till Joseph told me about him, providing a great back story to go with my Xmas present last year. His partner Imogen was in on it to – co-conspirators!
I’m also pretty certain the at a stretch (‘minuscolo’, so not much of a stretch), resemblance to a dildo had no bearing on my preference. But who really knows what your unconscious mind gets up to!
I bought the grinder he wanted. Far better that than a teenager in a sulk. As it turned out, it’s held up to a hell of a lot of grinding over close to twenty years. Oh, but it’s so, so ‘minuscolo’! And the knob that holds on the handle and filler lid is prone to doing its own unwinding and gets covered in gunge when it falls in my porridge.
What, you don’t have several grinds of pepper on your porridge? I do, and I wrote a tell-all post, replete with photographic evidence, about my breakfast predilections ages ago: Can you stomach this?
So yep, for me, black peppercorns are right up there – a staple food. Joseph and Imogen should make them a staple – the only way they’re going to get through close to half a kg while the corns are at their potent best.
Rubirosa’s a big fella and Joseph wanted to make sure Rubi stayed potent along his entire length, so had plenty of fresh corns on hand – he bought half a kg. OTT! The grinder holds 77 grams.
Not wanting to leave me with a big bag of peppercorns going stale, they kept the rest for themselves. Still, I would have thought dried peppercorns stored in a tightly sealed glass jar would stay fresh for years. I’ve just checked online, and it appears to be so. (See How Long Do Whole Black Peppercorns Last? )
He may not hold enough peppercorns to feed an army but there’s no denying that Rubi’s large. My one’s almost the ‘wooden two-footer’ sported by the restaurant named after the playboy.
But as you may have guessed by now, when it comes to things culinary, remembering Rubirosa the man, or Rubi as he was called, extends far beyond a solitary eatery named after him:
In his day, Rubirosa was famous for his bedroom antics; these days his name is generally evoked in culinary environs: Large pepper mills, for reasons that needn’t be explained, have become known as Rubirosas.Keeping the Memory of Playboy Porfirio Rubirosa Alive . . . With Pepper Mills | Vogue
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully for this week. My crop of Californian thistles is on the verge of going to seed – better get the scythe out next week. Next Monday’s post: Californian Thistles.
Thanks for your company. Bye for now.