Wednesday Will: Shylock’s Ham and Cheese Bruschetta

Shylock’s Ham and Cheese Bruschetta, otherwise called Without the Ham

  “They are as sick that surfeit with too much, as they that starve with nothing.” The Merchant of Venice, 2.1

Shylock’s Ham and Cheese Bruschetta is based upon two intertwined, iconic works: Italian bruschetta, or toast, and televised Texas Hold’em tournaments. Though scholars have pointed out the seeming influence of other recipes on the dish such as Marlowe’s The Tomato of Malta, Boccaccio’s Breads and Il Pecorone – ‘The Big Sheep’, a book of appetizer recipes attributed to Ser Giovanni of Florence – the only clear influence we the editors see might be from Dame Cook of Wisconsin and Ser Gianni of Cleveland’s Pasta Noir.

The recipe itself is probably a natural development from Shakespeare’s starving university days when for him finding paper money in his pocket was unheard of. Bruschetta is cheap eats, an earlier, healthier Italian version of Burger King. His usage of lemon zest, fresh Robiola cheese and avocado, however, add a surprising depth and stratification of flavor to more traditional versions of the dish.

The Ingredients of the recipe:

Good bread, enough to feed some hungry Christian men and women and infidels
Garlic, enough to flavor the bread
Extra-Virgin olive oil, enough to dribble over the bread
Pepper and salt and hot pepper and basil
Lemon essence
Diced ripe tomatoes
Robiola or other fresh cream cheese
Anchovies, enough to pucker your mouth
Mozzarella, enough to melt over the anchovies
A ripe avocado

A hearty pork sausage
Some creamed potatoes
Some well-boiled broccoli
A pound of flesh
A good disguise or two
Other various ismsThe Chefs of the Recipe:
Shakespeare – the card dealer
Jessica – daughter of one of the card players, girl friend to another
Portia – a card shark in her spare time
Bassanio – another player, but good-lookin’ and sensitive
The Prince of Morocco – ditto. But really full of himself

The Prince of Aragon – ditto. But even more full of himself
Shylock – another card shark. Full time
Lorenzo – see Bassanio

Graziano & Solanio – men. And commentators
Antonio – another man. Another commentator. Invested all of his savings with Bernie Madoff

Nerissa – falls for Graziano. Has more practical things to do than play cards

serves Venice

Act I, sc. 1

Texas Hold’em tournament: Venice. Sitting at the table are: Bassanio a good-lookin’ guy with almost no chips; The Prince of Morocco, a cool-lookin’ black hunk wearing lots of gold and hip-hop clothes; Portia, ‘the attorney’ disguised as a man and wearing sunglasses; The Prince of Aragon, a well-groomed white guy wearing an expensive suit and watch; Shylock, a short, ugly-ish old guy wearing a beanie, with lots of well-stacked chips in front of him; and finally Lorenzo, who has the 2nd smallest mound of chips. Enter Graziano, Antonio and Solanio, commentators. Finally enter Nerissa. She looks at Graziano from across the room

Graziano: (looking back at Nerissa) Yo’, Tony, check out the hooters that just walked in.

Antonio: Jerry, please. We’re live in 20 seconds.

Solanio: Geez, Tone, lighten up, will ya’? You’ve been moping’ around like you’re a Browns fan or something.

Antonio: Yeah, you’re probably right. Sorry guys. I’ve just been feeling so bummed lately. I dunno’… maybe it’s this global warming and all. It’s like you can’t be sure about anything anymore. Anyway, we’re on 3, 2, 1….

Solanio: A welcomed return to one and all
To this our Texan-held card tournée in
Lovely Venice. In this hand only the
Mysterious attorney and his princely
Sun-tanned opponent on the table remain.

Graziano: Our over-reaching royal player
Is convinced his two queens are to enough
To reign in this pot’s crowning chips. Yet the
Final card has yet to be o’erthrown.
And look there! ‘Tis a diamond’s three! Now the attorney’s color and scale are both complete. Oh thwarted destiny, that such a low card could undo such high status.

Antonio: All’s in for our unsuspecting blue blood.

Solanio: The attorney’s straightest flush is revealed, and so breaks the prince’s royal bank. The deposed Moroccan bows and takes his leave as the lawyer reaches over and takes his chips.

Graziano: Stay, I prithee, for God’s sake. After these
Our unhumble commercial messages
There are yet many sad stories to tell….annnd, we’re off.

Antonio: Crap.

Solanio: What’s wrong?

Antonio: Oh, I know I shouldn’t have but…I bet 3 grand at 3 to 1 that that old Jewish card-shark wouldn’t win – again.

Graziano: Whoa, that was a risky bet. Shylock’s been pretty consistent. Anyway, chill. There’s 3 other players. Plus Bassanio’s still in, even if it don’t look like it’s gonna’ be his day.

Graziano and Nerrisa exchange flirting glances

Graziano: Hey, guys, I’m – ah – goin’ to the kitchen and get something to eat. You want me to bring anything back?

Solanio: Yeah, I’m starving. Get a tray of some of that Italian toast.

Graziano: OK. Be back in a jiff.

Exit Graziano and Nerissa. Roar from the crowd. Flourish. Aragon stands up from the poker table and exits

Solanio: Wow, that was fast. That lawyer guy’s really good. OK, we’re on.

Antonio: When you our treasured audience did leave
Us to attend your nachos and dip of
Halapenioed cheese, 5 men remained.

Solanio: But in the time between the forming of
A word and its passage through a mistress’
Well-formed lips, our keen lawyer did sue Spain’s
First son. With clever wit and cleverer
Cards he did dispatch the trial and hand.

Antonio: So now the blood of Aragon, playing the odds wrong, has from the poker table gone.

Solanio: At least, departing after his darker royal cousin, he may claim the silver and not the gold blinking idiot’s reward. Yet a potent bankrupt portrait of vanity did both men make.

Antonio: Yes, and between the graceless cards that have of late given Lorenzo a slow adieu to his diminishing chips, and Bassanio’s too sensitive, unbluffing face, it would appear the game will soon be down to a Christian lawyer and a heathen hustler.

Solanio: Now the card shrunken Lorenzo takes courage and with his paired two of hearts rails against Shylock’s scriptured, hidden hand. But what’s this? Shylock’s creeping daughter has stepped into the scene.

Enter Jessica from the audience behind Shylock. She looks at his cards, then steps around and tries to get Lorenzo’s attention as she shakes her head. Shylock notices and complains to the dealer, who indicates that Lorenzo has forfeit the game

Antonio: And so Lorenzo makes a rapid end to his swan-like fade, ceding his last chips to Shylock.

Solanio: The clever aged man has played well, first teaching the table how to bluff, and now how a cheating bluffer should be answered. Tis a shame he is an infidel. I have never seen so shrewd a mind in so unkind a character. It’s like watching the devil.

Antonio: A devil that uses poker for his pricey purpose.

Solanio: As our producers use pricey publicity to profit from our poker party?

Antonio: Peter Piper picked a pack?

Solanio: I yield to the greater nonsense. Please, do return after our wits have recovered from this witless banter after these wittier messages…an-n-nd, we’re off.

Graziano returns with Nerissa, each holding a big tray of freshly toasted bruschetta

Solanio: Finally! I’m so hungry I’d even eat poached peppers. What you got?

Graziano: No peppers this time. Tomato and basil with Robiola and grated lemon rind; plain tomato and basil; sausage, broccoli and creamed potatoes; anchovies and melted mozzarella; and just plain olive oil.

Solanio: And the garlic?

Graziano: Rubbed on fresh. Oh, and this one has some avocado. You want some Tony?

Antonio: No thanks. I’m not hungry. Plus with your two mouths full someone’s gotta’ do the commentary. And 3,2…
Gentle viewing friends, a happy return.
Bassanio has just broke his win-less
Streak with well-played winning cards, aided by
The lawyer’s odd, wit-less folding plea.
As the game swiftly deals itself to its
Flattened, singular time of crunch,
Sal and Greg are here crunching the hunger
Of their manly bellies with a manly
Crunchy toast. I hope they leave some for me.

Solanio: ‘Tis to us Christian men this world falls, crunch and all.

Nerissa: Hey there, buck-o. Have not everyone, Jew, Christian, man, woman….

Solanio: Eat, pray, love? (Pause. Nerissa, Graziano and Antonio look at him without saying anything) Sorry.

Nerissa: As I was saying, has not everyone
In our large studio audience eyes?
Have they not noses, stomachs, teeth, senses,
hungers? If you feed them, will they eat not?
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what
It means to me. Graziano, start passing
The loaded trays around. Or no nook-nook
Will you find in my bed tonight, capisce?

Solanio: Nook-nook?

Graziano shrugs his shoulders, then takes the bruschetta into the audience

Antonio: Methinks our good Graziano has despite himself found a beautiful, unbonded bride-to-be. As in the game, here in our weekly poker program anything can happen. The outcome remains hidden ‘till the fattest of ladies sings the highest of notes. Just as Bassanio’s apparent going-out-of-business sale has been dis-inventoried by his latest hand’s well-transacted full-priced bluff.Solanio: Indeed. The last hand was the first hand where the lawyer’s hands seemed tied. It seemed almost as if he wanted Bassanio’s hand on top of his own.Antonio: Smelling blood with the new deal, Shylock has now swooped in for his pound of flesh.Solanio: Pound of flesh? Never heard that one before.

Antonio: Yeah, well, I read a little. Anyway. What’s this? Bassanio has all-ed himself into this surprising final pot. Now each one of his chips is in.

Solanio: And it does look as if Shylock has both Bassanio and the lawyer by their hips. The spaded jack on the table like Odysseus leads Shylock’s straight line of soldiers stealthily behind their Trojan defenses. Fortune’s misfortune has Bassanio holding 2 of the remaining jacks. So barring a knighted poker he hath over-esteemed his own readiness, and like Troilus and Troy so he and his carded house will fall from Shylock’s hidden advance.

Antonio: The hand and game do seem ended. Yet our lawyer holds two queens. And what’s this? The 6th card now gives him a 3rd. Shylock pauses not to reflect: showing no mercy he pushes all his ducats in the centered mound.

Solanio: And so the lawyer to match the bonded wager must place all of his chips on the table. The 7th river card flows…and reveals another queen! Poker! The Attorney has won! Do you believe in miracles?

Flourish. Shouts. Confetti. Antonio jumps around like a happy maniac

Antonio: Yee-hoo!

Shylock looks dejected. Portia goes over and gives him 3,000 worth of chips, then takes off her disguise, turns, takes Bassanio in her arms, dips him, and gives him a long kiss on the lips. Nerissa follows, doing the same with Graziano, then Jessica with Lorenzo

Solanio: What a lovely, lively finish. All’s well in this week’s well-ended game. Next week we’ll be in Verona with both some old players and 2 notorious, local gentlemen. Until then, adieu…

End recipe


The real recipes:


For the base:
Sliced good bread
Good extra-virgin olive oil
Garlic cloves sliced in two
The idea here is to get the best bread you can find, fresh Italian country or Portuguese loaves, slice it according to your own taste, toast it until begins to turn brown and crusty, and then rub the garlic across the crunchy bread while it’s still warm. Then dribble a few drops of good olive oil over each slice, and add a pinch of salt. At this point you can even put Kraft Maccheroni and cheese on top and it’ll still taste good.For the first bruschetta:
1 freshly diced tomato
Ripped or roughly sliced fresh basil
Freshly grated lemon rind
A dash of ground pepperoncino
Robiola or other fresh cream cheese
Extra-Virgin olive oil
Take all the ingredients except for the cheese and mix well, then set aside a minute as you spread a very thin layer of cheese across the base toast. Then spoon the mixture on top. Makes two pieces of toast. Serve with beer or any chilled light red or white wine, or with ‘mezzo e mezzo’: half 7-up, half red wine. You could crumble some toast into the beer like they did in Shakespeare’s time. Nah.For the second bruschetta:
2-4 anchovy filets under oil
2-4 slices of mozzarella, as fresh if possible
2 fresh zucchini flowers, optional
Place one or two of the filets on each piece of toast, then layer the flowers and the mozzarella on top. Place in a broiler just until the cheese melts over, then remove and grate some black pepper on top if you like it. Makes two.

For the third bruschetta:
2 flavored sausage links, pork, kosher, turkey, whatever, as long as it’s good
1 small broccoli
1 creamed potato
Olive oil

Fry up the broken pieces of meat in a teaspoon of olive oil. Boil well the broccoli, only the green flowers, and drain. Boil the potato, then mash, adding cream until it becomes a sauce. Season and flavor as you will, with thyme, cinnamon, chives, etc., or with nothing. Mix all the ingredients when ready, taste for salt and pepper, then spoon it over the toast. Makes 4-5 crunchy slices.

link – the play: 

link – the food:

or link, from the gentyll manly cokere, a different toast with capons and sweet almond saffron milk:

Pasta Noir. It’s free, it has real recipes, and it may be the only recipe book with bloopers… ebook:

Weekend Recipe – pasta noir: Edgar Allan Poe

Pasta Noir Weekend Literary Recipes – Edgar Allen Poe



“…take thy form from off my door! / Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore’.” The Raven


For the pasta:

500 grams maccheroncini

A metronome

10 large shrimp, pealed and cleaned.

8 fresh, ripe tomatoes

1 onion.

1 clove of garlic

Sweet basil

Rose petals


For the stuffed artichoke:

20 very black olives

1 giant artichoke heart

One live raven*



*If your local pet shop can’t procure a raven, any wild bird will do, as long as it has a beak.
Serves 5.


Click on the metronome. Grab the raven by its feet and hang it upside down in front of the window. (Never mind it’s screaming.) Fill the pot with water and place it on a back burner for later. Turn on the oven.


Take the butcher knife. Butcher the tomatoes in halves, then quarters, then eighths, in time with the metronome. (Never mind the red juice splattering and dripping over the walls. You can clean up later.) Begin plucking the raven. If it protests by tapping its beak on the window, chop off its head. (This will also serve to stop its screaming.) When finished, finely mince the meat after de-boning. Add salt and pepper. Chop the garlic vigorously into many small, irregular pieces, then the onion, and finally the olives, but gingerly place the basil on a soft bed of rose petals pre-set the night before.

Take a break. Have a drink.

Place a pan on a flame set to high and pour in a gushing stream of oil. Listen to it just beginning to bubble, then hurl the butchered onion and garlic into the pan. Wait until the resulting sizzle dies down, the onions will sweat, the garlic ooze away its last drops of flavor. Now shove the tomatoes in and watch as their skins peel away from their flesh, curling up and away from the heat. Stir, and wait as the oil and juices mix into a glistening red sauce. Check on the basil to see if it is resting peacefully.

Take a break. Have a drink. Then a nap. Beware of any nightmares the kitchen odors may provoke.


Wake up with a start. You’ve forgotten to stuff the heart! Quickly, quickly, chop, chop, chop away its extra fat and hard, chewy cartilage and veins to reveal its deep red, er, light green interior, (never mind it’s a vegetable.). Enlarge the opening by pulling, tearing, ripping it by turns, but hurry! The water is already boiling! The pasta! The pasta! Salt the water. Quickly, quickly pour the pasta into the boiling water. Hurry! Stuff the minced crow, olive, rosemary and pepper mix into the bleeding heart. Place in a baking tray and slide into a billowing hot oven for 15 minutes. TURN OFF that gaddam metronome! Stir the pasta, stir again faster, then check on the sweet basil to make sure it’s resting peacefully on the sweet-smelling rose petals.

Now add the pre-cleaned and pealed giant shrimp to the sauce, cook for 4 minutes. Turn off heat and gingerly take up the resting basil and bring it over to pan, and rip it into shreds into the sauce. (Just enough basil, never more.) Mix in the pasta after straining. Remove the giant artichoke heart from the oven and place in the middle of a large serving platter and dish out the pasta around it. Place the raven’s head on top as a nice decoration.

The real recipe:
4 artichokes
Chicken broth
Grated Parmesan
3-4 crushed garlic cloves
20-24 cherry tomatoes
Chopped parsley
400 grams of maccheroni
8-12 medium-sized shrimp
Extra-virgin olive oil

Serves 4.

Don’t try this recipe at home. But if you insist on doing something similar, clean 4 artichokes and chop them into 16th’s, placing the pieces into a bowl of lemon ice water to prevent them from browning. Then place them outside-down in a large saucepan filled by a layer of chicken broth about 1/4 –1/2 inch deep, grate some parmesan cheese over top, cover, and cook on medium to low heat until the artichoke pieces are tender all the way through. In the meantime place a pot of salted water on to boil and flavor some olive oil in a sauté pan on low heat with a few crushed garlic cloves. Remove the garlic after 2-3 minutes. Slice 20-24 cherry tomatoes into 4th’s, and then finely chop some parsley. When the artichoke hearts are ready and have been drained and the pasta, (400 grams,) is 3 minutes from being done sauté 8-12 peeled medium-sized shrimp on high heat, adding the cherry tomatoes a minute after. Drain the pasta and mix along with the parsley and artichokes, sprinkle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and serve immediately. Decorate the table with the rose petals if you must. Accompany with a medium structured white wine. Serves 4 people and one raven.

link- An E.A. Poe feast –

Ricette Weekend – pasta noir: Edgar Allan Poe

Ricette letterarie – Edgar Allan Poe

“… La tua figura dalla mia porta! / Disse il Corvo, ‘Mai più’. ”
Il corvo

Per la pasta:
500 grammi maccheroncini
Un metronomo
10 mazzancolle, sbucciate e pulite
8 pomodori freschi maturi
1 cipolla
1 spicchio di aglio
Petali di rosa

Per il carciofo ripieno:
20 olive nere molto
1 cuore di carciofo gigante
* Un corvo vivo
* Se il vostro negozio di animali locale non può procurare un corvo, un uccello selvatico qualsiasi può sostituirlo. Basto che ha un becco.

Serve 5.

Accenda il metronomo. Afferra il corvo per le zampe e appenderlo a testa in giù davanti alla finestra. (Non importa se urla.) Riempie la pentola con acqua e metterla su un fornello, per dopo. Accenda il forno.
Afferra un coltello da macellaio. Macella i pomodori a metà, poi in quarti, poi in ottavi, sempre a tempo con il metronomo. (Non prestare attenzione allo succo rosso che schizza e gocciola sui muri. Si puo pulire più tardi.) Inizia a pizzicare il corvo. Se protesta, magari battendo la finestra col suo becco, tagliolo la testa. (Questo servirà anche per fermare qualsiasi urletto dal suo becco.) Adesso che c’e un po meno casino, trita finemente la sua carne dopo d’aver disossato. Aggiusta il sale e il pepe. Trita l’aglio con forza in tanti piccoli pezzi irregolari, poi la cipolla, e infine le olive – ma con una gentile cautela agevola il basilico su un morbido letto di petali di rosa che avrai preparato la sera prima.

Si prenda una pausa. Farti un bel drink.
Metta una padella a fuoco alto e versa dentro un flusso d’olio che sgorga. Ascoltalo mentre comincia a bollire, poi scaglia la cipolla e l’aglio macellato nella padella. Attenda che il risultante sfrigolare si placa: le cipolle suderanno, l’aglio perdera le sue ultime gocce di sapore. Ora tira dentro anche i pomodori e guarda come la loro pelle si stacca dalla carne rossa, arricciolando, sformandosi nel calore. Mescola, e aspetta che l’olio e i succhi si mescolano finche non diventano una salsa rossa scintillante. Controlla il basilico per vedere se si sta riposando pacificamente.
Prenditi una altra pausa. Farti un’altro drink. Poi farti un pisolino. Fai attenzione, ormai siamo intimi, ad eventuali incubi che gli odori della cucina potrebbero provocare.

Svegliati di colpo. Hai dimenticato di farcire il cuore! Presto, presto, tagli, tagli, tagli via il grasso e le parti duri, la cartilagine gommosa e le vene per arrivare al suo interno, il colore rosso intenso…ehm, ovvero verde, (evitiamo di ricordare che è un vegetale.). Ingrandisci l’apertura tirando con le tue mani, lacerando, strappando, ma sbrighi! L’acqua bolle gia’! La pasta! La pasta! Sali l’acqua, presto, presto versi la pasta. Sbrigati! Metti la farcita del corvo tritato, olive, rosmarino e pepe mescolato nel cuore sanguinante. Mettilo in una teglia e poi in forno, caldo come l’inferno, per 15 minuti. SPEGNI quel CAZZO di metronomo! Mescoli la pasta, mescoli ancora più veloce, poi controlli che il basilico dolce riposa ancora pacificamente sui profumati petali di rosa.
A questo punto aggiungi i gamberoni pre-puliti e sbucciati nella salsa – per 4 minuti. Spegni il forno e con cautela prendi il basilico e portalo sopra la pasta. Adesso – strappalo a brandelli nella salsa. (Solo quanto basilico serve, mai più.) Mescoli la pasta con tanta forza. Rimuovi il cuore del carciofo gigante dal forno e postalo al centro di un grande piatto da portata e sistemi la pasta intorno ad esso. Posizioni la testa del corvo in cima. Fara la sua porca figura.

La ricetta:


4 carciofi
Brodo di pollo
Parmigiano grattugiato
3-4 spicchi d’aglio schiacciati
20-24 pomodorini
Prezzemolo tritato
400 grammi di maccheroni
8-12 di medie dimensioni gamberetti
L’olio extra vergine di oliva
Dosi per 4 persone.

Non provate questa ricetta a casa. Ma se ti ostini a fare qualcosa di simile, 4 carciofi puliti – tagliateli a 16simi, ponendo i pezzi in una ciotola di acqua ghiacciata di limone per impedire loro di imbrunire. Poi li pone al di fuori verso il basso in una grande casseruola riempita da uno strato di brodo di pollo di circa 2-3 centimetri, grattugiare un po ‘di parmigiano sopra, coprire e cuocere a fuoco basso medio fino a quando i pezzi di carciofi sono teneri. Nel frattempo metti una pentola d’acqua salata a bollire e insaporire un po ‘di olio d’oliva in una padella a fuoco basso con qualche spicchio d’aglio schiacciato. Togliere l’aglio dopo 2-3 minuti. Taglia 20-24 pomodorini in 4, e poi tritate finemente il prezzemolo. Quando i cuori di carciofo sono pronti e sono stati prosciugati e la pasta, (400 grammi,) è a 3 minuti circa da fine cottura, saltate 8-12 gamberi a fuoco medio-vivace, aggiungere i pomodorini un minuto dopo. Scolare la pasta e mescolare con il prezzemolo e carciofi, cospargere con un po ‘di olio extra vergine di oliva e servire subito. Decorare la tavola con i petali di rosa, se è necessario. Accompagnare con un vino bianco mezzo strutturato vino. Serve 4 persone e un corvo.

Link: An Edgar A. Poe-feast:


Weekend Recipe – pasta noir: Mozart’s Vegetable and Salmon Pasta Minuet (263 this month)

Mozart’s Pasta Minuet

“I am happier when I have something to compose, for that…is my sole delight.” Letter to his father.

300 grams of short pasta
2 medium zucchini
1 bunch of fresh asparagus
1 small bunch of dandelion greens
1 small package of smoked salmon
3 medium tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
Olive Oil
Dill Weed
Sesame Seed

Serves 3.

With a small precise knife, cut the zucchini, asparagus, greens, tomatoes, smoked salmon and garlic into tiny little pieces.  Put olive oil into a skillet and heat until it starts to merrily pop.  Add tiny pieces of garlic, zucchini and asparagus to the mixture and using two well-tuned wooden spoons, toss vigorously in the air as they are cooking.  The kitchen should be alive with tiny pieces of vegetable flying all over the place.  Don’t worry if some escape from the pan.  Enough will remain to blend harmoniously with other ingredients.
When the pasta is close to done, add the greens, tomatoes and salmon to the sauce, again using spoons to toss gleefully into the air, creating a quick colorful succession of tiny little pieces bobbing up and down, to and fro.  For added variety and flavor, add dill weed and sesame seed, allowing them to join the lively dance in the kitchen.
When pasta is done, strain and add to the sauce.  Open a sparkling red wine that fizzes and bubbles in counter time as you vigorously toss pasta and sauce with the wooden spoons to mix.  Serve immediately, ignoring critics who accuse you of using too many ingredients. -by Susan Cook

The real recipe: Slice the garlic and sauté in a pan with some olive oil. Add the asparagus pieces, beginning with the stems, then the tips and finally the chopped zucchini. Season to taste. Boil the short pasta, butterfly or penne. When the pasta has only a few minutes left to boil, add the peeled and seeded tomatoes, then the roughly chopped greens, and herbs to taste. Drain the pasta and mix it into the sauce, adding the pieces of salmon and a very little bit of extra-virgin olive oil. Serve with something that fizzles. 

The Divorce: Opening Arguments for the Defense

Opening Arguments for the Defense

…. thank you, and thank you for the kind words, Berchtold. You might be a little optimistic. I don’t know if y’all will find what I have to say all that interesting. There’ll be some science, not too much, don’t roll your eyes. There’ll be emotional stories, to. Emotions, after all, are also part of the science. A big part, actually. I’ll do my best to keep things even, liven things up when I can. Better gravy than no grease at all, right? That’s something people say where I’m from. Don’t tell anybody but I’m not completely sure what it means. A little. By the way, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, good morning to y’all.

My name is Francesca, as my colleague mentioned. Francesca Ditonno. Unlike him, I’m not going to open my introduction by talking about what you see or what you hear. You already know that. I’m here, for one, the blonde hair is all mine – not like Mr. Olive’s. Legs to, the whole thing. Everything came from my mom and dad. Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly runs clean to the bone. Take another Mr. Olive over there – see what I mean?


I am a bit younger than Berchtold but don’t let the looks fool you – only a smidge. You can tell from my accent that I’m a southern girl. We smile a little differently but we’re the same, basically. Well, maybe. It depends on what we’re talking about. I would ask each of you to smile, see if it’s different than mine, tell me a little about yourselves but the judge says I’m not supposed to ask any single jury member any questions. So, let’s get down to business right away. Could you dim the lights now, please? A little more. Ok, thank you. Let me click this little switch here and… there we go.


Pretty cool, eh? You probably know what that squiggly blue thing is. It’s a brain, of course, a human one. Well, a 3 dimensional model of a brain anyway. Don’t worry: we’re not going into the science stuff just yet. It is neat though. Makes me smile like a baked possum. We can spin it around like this, or close in on one place… see how that works, that close-up? We can step inside like Berchtold did with the past. Change the view, change the colors – blue to green, or red… any color we want, make it easier to see how things connect and change. A lot of options.

A lot of this trial has to do with that. Not this brain. But theirs, the people you’ll be judging. I’m not here to defend them, only to maybe see why they did what they did, and do what they do. Complete their stories like a swing on a front porch. It’s not only their story. It’s ours, to, both here and outside, where the weather’s been getting sticky as day old gravy on a plate.

You’ve heard the line: ‘No man is an island,’ right? That’s from an old poet, John Donne. He was right. It’s true. Let me show y’all… so I have to push this light and… voice commands? Well I’ll . Ok: ‘Run Donne’s Island.’

There we go. See all that activity, the way those yellow lights turn on, then there, then there, then all over… that’s someone listening to someone else during a conversation. Actually, it’s that teenage girl – you can see the hologram of her image up there on the left. We all here are connected because of those things, whether we like or not. All of our brains are always talking to each other even if we don’t hear it. Like those voices Berchtold alluded to. Our brains, you know, groove together, wherever we are, and whomever we’re with. So it’s better to keep good company. Birds of a feather.


It’s true even with places. This room, with me, or with the screen you’re looking at right now. You’re interacting with it, processing all those…differences, and turning energy into information, comparing it with all the people you’ve ever met. Wherever you’ve been. Every person or place you’ve ever interacted with, your parents, your sisters, brothers, friends, even the clerk at the grocery store. We carry them all inside. They all changed you a little, changed that, our brain – maybe you added a connection between here and here, the white and blue lines. Or took one away from here. The past is gone and maybe we can’t change it. But all that past interacts with you in the here and now, changing the present. So who knows? I’m from the south. Maybe one day I’ll put syrup on my grits. Well, maybe we won’t go that far. You can take a girl from the south but you can’t take the south from a girl.

The neat thing about that: if the past changes the present, maybe we can flip it, make the present change the past a little.

End program.

…will you turn the lights back up? Bless your heart. There are plenty of people involved in this case. Just counting the ones here, witnesses and accused, how many are there? 50? 60? Architects, fathers, managers, friends, politicians, a whole bunch of people. But its only dominated by three, the first three over there on the accused stand. At least, the narrative is. They’re why we’re here, the ones responsible for pulling us in. Mike and his two wives, Pippa and Ursula. There’s quite an age difference between the first two and the last. Mike was a man, we all know, and a business man to boot. When he was alive, he thought he could buy the moon. A real egg sucking dog, piss on your leg and tell you it was raining. But was he always that way? If you look at Ursula, his second wife, whose nose is so high she could dry in a rainstorm, a snake in the grass to, slicker than owl do-do. There’s a lot of irony in that, seeing what she would do to him. You might think: yes, birds a feather again, or what goes around comes back. Then how do you figure Pippa, his first wife? Nothing wrong with her. Nice lady, generous, thoughtful, graceful to. Those other two look like the ugly tree whipped them silly. What did Pippa do to deserve all that meanness? Know what I mean?


Let me put another way. I’m Francesca Ditonno. That’s my name. It doesn’t mean much. You could Google me maybe, find out where I went to school, where I’ve lived, all my relatives, look at a picture of me on vacation in Barbados, or the first time I made pizza. Or the last time I made sushi.

And you might be able to read some comments on Facebook, or find other pictures on Instagram, maybe even look up articles I published, find other cases I was involved in. Or you could if there was a me outside of here. Of course, there might be. I don’t know. Maybe I should Google myself. Maybe we all should. You never know what you’ll find. Francesca Ditonno.

All those things, the people, places, things done, meals prepared… they’re all part of me. Just like they are for any of the accused. But what you might find on the surface doesn’t tell you a lot. Not really. Like Mike. He has his own history, people and places. You’d find a lot of information if you Googled him. But all that… doesn’t help us too much. A little. To find out why we did what we did, why we do what we do… you might need all that stuff, all those things that come together. Or you might need only a few moments, those so few moments, which really had an impact. Wonderful or terrible scenes where what’s inside and outside come together for good or bad.

Take Mike. His mother’s brain – you can see her there in the back of the gallery – didn’t develop very well. A low IQ, not that that matters much but it can. She was out of control, so narcissistic to want even her boys to desire her. You cannot Google that. Or have his father spent most of his time faraway in other countries, leaving Mike alone to deal with her mothers drama, be the man of the house, take care of his two younger brothers. I’ll be showing you what that sort of trauma did to his young brain, using the moment he was called away from school at 10 to come back home to take care of his crying, screaming mom, lying on the floor half naked. Can you imagine how that might alter the kind of relationship he’d have with the women the rest of his life? It make Ursula’s arrival into his life.. not so surprising. He viewed women as… not even prostitutes. As he would always say: ‘fuck as many bitches as you can.’ It’s not that those moments alone make up what most of us will do for the rest of our lives. Then again. The most important decisions of your life you make blind. It’s not only luck. Biology plays a part.


link- adaptive benefits of psychopathy are more expressed in harsh, depriving and stressful environments — individuals from these environments with elevated psychopathy traits had particularly high mating effort.

I would go on but after seeing how long Berchtold talked in the first post, the judge decided to set limits, at least here. Y’all probably agree. So I’ll close by saying again – I am not here to defend the accused but to place them into a context. Maybe you will be convinced enough to show mercy, even find one or more of these defendants innocent. That is not for me to say. Maybe you won’t. Maybe the arguments I present will do the opposite, convince you that the defendants should be whooped tell they’re red for eternity. I will in any case try to show you why, partially, these people did what they did. And do what they do. You’ll be the judge.

Bless y’all for listening. I’ll sit now and let the prosecutor call the first defendant to the stand.