Shock Your Dinner Guests: The Racy History of Tiramisu

Everyone knows and loves tiramisu. One of your colleagues probably made it for the work potluck, or your aunt brought some over last Christmas. There are many variations, but generally it consists of eggs, heavy cream, ladyfinger cookies, mascarpone cheese, cocoa, liqueur, and espresso. This seemingly wholesome dessert actually has a very raunchy backstory. Keep reading and you will never look at tiramisu the same way again!

Photo from our cooking demonstration, where we learned the truth about tiramisu

Here’s a breakdown of the meaning behind “tiramisu”:

  • The verb “tirare” has various English translations, including “to pull”, “to pick” or “to tug.”
  • The pronoun “mi” means “me.”
  • Su translates to “on” or “up.”

So tiramisu translates into something along the lines of “pull on me,” “pull me up” or “pick me up.” You might start to see where this is going…And if your mind is in the gutter, don’t worry – it belongs there.

Let’s go back in time to a northern Italian city called Treviso. Turns out that tiramisu was what “ladies of the night” used to keep clients going – and in turn, help them make more money. Full of energizing carbs, sugar and espresso, it was a pick me up to keep male clients awake and encourage them to purchase more services. Plus, it was just plain delicious.

In 1958, the brothels were banned by the government, but one woman preserved the recipe. She and her husband first served tiramisu at their restaurant, called Le Beccherie, in the 1960s. This restaurant is still open today, and is considered the birthplace of tiramisu in its modern day form. Treviso still capitalizes on tiramisu’s sexy history, apparently offering tours to former brothels where tiramisu was served.

At your next dinner party (or better yet, next date night), make some tiramisu and entertain your company with the truth about this Italian treat!


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