Red wine is a traditional component of Catholic communion, but the newly-appointed Pope Francis has been known to enjoy an occasional glass of wine outside the sacred religious ceremony, revealing that a man who is known for his austerity still relishes some of the specialties Argentina is known for.
A profile published by Argentine newspaper La Nación in 2009 sheds some light on a pope whose modest diet reflects religious austerity but exposes a man who partakes in simple pleasures. Case in point: The 76-year-old is known for skipping hearty Argentinian dishes – think parilla, meats slow cooked over a barbecue grill, or flaky, rich empanadas stuffed with boiled egg and beef picadillo – preferring a diet of fruit, skinless chicken and salads, augmented by a glass of wine from time to time.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio — as he was then known – ate a simple lunch served at 12:30 pm following a morning of meditation (from 4 to 7 a.m.) and meetings. Following lunch and keeping with Argentinian custom, the pope would take a siesta before holding additional meetings and parishioner hearings throughout the afternoon.
During his service in Argentina, the pope would occasionally take a public bus and head out to bless local restaurant kitchens or celebrate birthdays. Very rarely, when participating in a saint’s feast, he would partake in a meal of soup, preferring to cook for himself and eat meals alone in his home on the second floor of the Curia, located next to the Cathedral in Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo. There were exceptions however, as he joked once, saying that he enjoyed going to a local nunnery for a helping of a Italian bread and warm olive oil dip specialty known as Bagna Cauda.
While the Pope may have restricted his foodie tendencies, the profile describes a religious servant who enjoyed listening to classical music, reading, writing letters and maintaining close relationships with his parishioners. He never traveled unless on business to Rome and while there, states La Nación, he enjoyed long walks and drinking ristretto – a shot of espresso – at local cafeterias.
And so it seems that while the Pope – the son of a railroad worker and housewife – doesn’t have the reputation of a foodie, he has some of the habits beloved by Latinos across the globe. A love of cafecito and a taste for a good glass of wine, which along with his religion, may further endear him to the Catholics that now call him Padre Francisco.