Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Another Dinner With Montalbano - second session

Richard Wilcocks writes:
Richard Wilcocks and Gigliola Sulis
Photo by Daria
This second session seems to have gone down as well with the gourmet diners and the appassionati di Montalbano as the first one on Monday 5 March. You can find the report on that one by scrolling back. We covered the same ground. Once again, Andrea Camilleri's life and attitudes were outlined by Gigliola with panache, and once again, selected morsels from The Shape of Water (nothing to do with the film of the same name), The Snack Thief and The Terracotta Dog were fed to an appreciative (see below) audience by myself. 

Once again, it became apparent that the Sicilian attitudes and the accounts of criminality fictionalised by the author are not too far from the truth, in spite of the inclusion of comic characters like Agatino Catarella, straight out of the Comedia del'Arte tradition. I found myself making parallels with English literature, which I do not think is too much off-topic, because we owe so much to Italian literature. Think Shakespeare for a start. Camilleri's wonderful production line of Montalbano stories reminds me of Conan Doyle's continuation of a string of Sherlock Holmes stories after the public pressured him to bring the detective back to life, and some of Camilleri's characters, particularly the grotesques, remind me of those of Charles Dickens - and Dickens, like Camilleri, had a strong social conscience. Unsurprisingly, this comes out more in the novels than in their adaptations for television, along with many academic references and the author's sly wit. The message might be to start reading now to find what is not in the television series.

People were asking us what we are planning for next year. A bit early for that I think. I have discussed the subject just a little with Gigliola. Perhaps famous Italian film directors with a literary connection? Pasolini? De Sica?

Note about Parmesan cheese
One of the read-out passages was about Montalbano's disgust when he watched his deputy Mimí Augello spooning Parmesan on to a plate of pasta with clam sauce in a restaurant. This required some explanation.

Cheese is not mixed with fish in Italian gastronomy. This is possibly because of an ancient belief that mixing fish with milk products causes the properties of the ingredients to change, which might cause digestive problems. 'Parmesan' is known as  Parmigianno Regiano or Grana Padano in Italy and it is fine to add it to your pasta, but if you are adding any kind of fish or seafood sauce, garlic or hot pepper, skip the cheese completely.

Audience Comments

Fantastic atmosphere, with perfect complementary dishes to transport yourself to Sicily. Good pace between courses and interesting titbits of information to bring Montalbano to life

Excellent. Good atmosphere and storytelling. Very interesting and informative.

Enjoyable evening. It's the third 'dinner with...' event we've been to. It's a nice idea! Loved the pasta alla norma.

An interesting idea, would have enjoyed more information about Camilleri's own life in Sicily and his motivation re atmosphere etc. Delicious food and a v. enjoyable evening

I thought it was an excellent eve with a good balance between good food and diverting conversation and readings.

It was entertaining evening, a good introduction to the novels. It didn't add a lot for anyone who knows them in detail. The food was good, but a small dessert and drink should be included.

Wonderfully dramatic readings brought the stories to life.

Really good fun. Food was superb and the atmosphere was great. Made us want to return to Sicily. Loved the readings and background info on Camilleri.

Lovely delicious food and engaging conversation. Era molto interesante.

Really enjoyed the evening. Well worth the special trip from Birmingham!! Fab food and fun with Commissario Montalbano. Clearly need to improve my Italian and get back to Sicily as soon as possible.

Not sure about the fish and cheese comment! I always mix them!

A very pleasant evening. Good food and good to hear Montalbano stories and more about Camilleri. Liked the story about the Parmesan.


It was worth coming for the timely reminder to not put parmesan on fish!

A delightful evening. We would never dare to sprinkle parmesan on pasta with any sort of fish!

Really enjoyable, but next time put the speakers in the middle of the room!

I enjoyed the food. Service excellent. Lovely to have readings. Also I would have preferred more Italian.

Excellent, very good. Really enjoyed it - the readings and the food. Love Montalbano hope there's more books and another series.

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