Although I don't recall exactly where, I once 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 not long ago, I fell into an internet hole trying to find answers to these questions, and only come out of it more confused than I was previously.....
Part of the mystery has been solved. Melon overdoses were once a THING:
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.
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.
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 by the Avignon Popes in the late 1300s 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!). I read at some point that these particular melons were so good and people were so obsessed with them that they almost went totally extinct. I can, however, tell you that Alexandre Dumas 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. But I digress!
Having been thinking about these Pope Death Melons for a very long time, I was blown away when I discovered I could have two of these melons delivered to me for 22 dollars. I considered it. But then I was informed, if I knew the right people, I could get them right here at the N.O. French Market, which conjured up hazy memories of scoring hashish from Philippe behind the Paris Library while at university.
SO I WENT AND I GOT ME SOME DAMN MELONS.
10/9 - 1:00 PM
Am I dead?
No, not yet. Not even a near-melon-death experience. 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 small and very, very sweet. Guess it depend on what you chase them with. One half is fine for me.
10/10- 12:24 AM
Just checking, still not dead!