I Ate The Melon So Delicious It Maybe Killed A Pope One Time
Once upon a time, though I don't recall exactly when or where, I read that Pope Paul II maybe died from eating too many melons.
Sure! There were other theories about his death. That it was merely a heart attack, or that he actually died while shtupping a pageboy. But it is the melon story that has stuck with me, haunted me, even. I had so many questions! What kind of melons were they? How many melons is too many melons? I love melons! Am I at risk?
And so at least once a year, I fall into an internet hole trying to find answers to these questions, and only come out of it more confused than I was previously.
Either there were many melon-related deaths in the Middle Ages, or people were going around spreading rumors of melon overdose deaths for some unknown reason, and I'm honestly not sure which of those things is more messed up.
An article in Bon Appetit claims that Pope Paul II only ate "two good big melons" in one sitting before he kicked it — and while two melons is a lot, I am not convinced that it is enough to kill someone. Joey Chestnuts, the reigning hot dog eating champion, can eat 71 hot dogs in ten minutes and he is not dead.
Most of the information I've been able to find says that the pope death melon initially came from either Africa or Armenia and was grown in the papal gardens in Cantalupo di Sabina, which is how Pope Paul II developed his obsession with them. At some point, however, the seeds were brought to France either by the Avignon popes in the late 1300s or by Charles VIII in the late 1400s, and they started growing them in Cavaillon. Now, the Cavaillon melons that are apparently the descendants of the pope killing melon can only be legally grown in France (like champagne!), but there are also Charentais melons, which are basically the same thing and can be grown anywhere.
I read at some point that these particular melons were so good and people were so obsessed with them that they went totally extinct, but I cannot find that source anymore. I can, however, tell you that one time Alexandre Dumas, pére, once asked to be paid entirely in Cavaillon melons, which I can respect.
Also, there is a group that calls itself the "Brotherhood of Knights of the Order of Melon of Cavaillon," formed in 1988, which we are just going to assume is some kind of super awesome Melon Illuminati. They have outfits and everything!
But I digress! I have been thinking about these pope death melons for a very long time, so when I discovered I could have two Charentais melons delivered to me for 22 dollars, I considered it. Publicly. And somehow, for some reason, this latest random tweet about my desire to eat a melon so delicious that it maybe killed a pope became very, very popular and I ended up with hundreds of people cheering me on in my melon journey. Thankfully, a very nice lady on Twitter informed me that I could actually buy them right here in Chicago for a normal price, at the farmer's market.
SO I WENT AND I GOT ME SOME DAMN MELONS.
And then I livestreamed the experience, poorly! Like, for real, the whole audio is off and on my first attempt I filmed the entire thing sideways. I do not know what I am doing with this, at all. I am sorry.
Am I dead?
No, I am not dead. I ate half of one yesterday and the other half this morning for breakfast and still seem to be doing pretty well.
Was it delicious?
Yes, it was delicious! I'm not sure if it was as thrilling as I had dreamed, but also what melon can really live up to literal years of built-up anticipation?
Could I eat so many of them that I would die?
Probably not, because they are very, very sweet. One half is fine for me, although I do not think I would die if I ate two of them, because they are very small.
Would I accept them as a form of payment?
Maybe for like one article, but only if I did not have to actually go to the Farmer's Market to pick them up. Although I could not make a habit out of it, because I have to pay rent and if I were homeless I would have nowhere to store all of those melons anyway.
Just checking, am I still not dead?
Still not dead!
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse