Ellen: A very short story

“One of these days I’m going to quit my job, get rid of all my shit, become a hobo and learn how to play the harmonica”
Which is exactly what Ellen did. Now, when you walk out of Arizona in order to start a new life, how do you decide where to go? Simple. Ellen pinned a map of the world on the wall, turned her back and tossed a dart over her shoulder at it. This was how she fetched up in Italy, a place called Cassole, she fell in love with it; adored how everywhere you looked was the background to a Renaissance painting.
There was a bar on the piazza. Occasionally, when they were short-staffed Ellen did a bit of waitressing. Sometimes after a glass too many, she would take out her old harmonica.
And play the blues.

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© Andy Daly 2014

Two Greedy Italians

A & G

Doesn’t sound promising does it?

However, BBC 2’s first in a series of five programmes featuring Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo was a cracker. It was the best thing I think I have seen on TV in ages.

Gennaro was Jamie Oliver’s mentor, but Antonio was Gennaro’s  and now the two of them are returning to Italy to find out if anything has changed since they left their homeland almost 50 years ago. Basically, it’s a sort of Italian ‘Hairy Bikers’ with Italia as their stomping ground; while they get about in a vintage  Alfa Romeo Giulia instead of the BMW R1200GS, F650GS or the Triumph Rocket III of Myers and King. The premise of  ‘Mama knows best…’ is the same too, and during the course of the programme the boys cook up 3 recipies.

However, if you are looking for a ‘working Italian cookbook’ off the back of this series. Don’t. This is not the programme for you. For although Food is very definately at the heart of Antonio and Gennaro’s project; it is Food in the wider context that is of interest to the them: the part it plays in society, its social functions, how it is a means for skills, knowledge and tradition to be kept alive as recipies are handed down from generation to generation.

Justa like Mamma used to make

On wednesday 4th May the theme was ‘The Family’. Antonio and Gennaro visited a factory which makes pasta: something which is becoming more and more popular in Italy, especially with working Mums, as opposed to home-made. Modena where eight women from three generations of the Giacobazzi balsamic vinegar family were preparing a family feast in the grounds of their palazzo. Bologna, home to “the most beautiful women in Italy” where Gennaro decides to help  Antonio find love by cooking a romantic, candlelit dinner for him and the young woman he has somehow found through a dating agency. Then Rimini, and a community that rehabilitates drug addicts by teaching them to cook and which is funded through the sale of its produce. Far from being some kind of wet ‘community service’, it is huge, and seems at least, to do exactly what it says on the tin.

Funny, touching and agreeably half-baked, it was a joy to watch. I expect the ‘I love you – but not in ‘That Way” jokes will start to wear thin after a while, but it certainly promises to be a very entertaining series.

If you missed it, do yourself a favour and catch it on the BBC I-Player, or pick it up next wednesday, BBC 2 at 8.00 pm.

Pic Credits: BBC, Guardian

© Andy Daly 2011