Sunday, November 13, 2022

Stanley Tucci, I really, really hate you!

Like many of us who follow such things, Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy has grabbed our attention. Those of us who haven’t gotten on a plane and traveled to all of Italy’s 20 regions in the last couple of years might have reason for just a tiny bit of jealousy directed towards Signore Tucci. Maybe even a small smattering of resentment. And being humans, that would be totally understandable. But that is not why I harbor any small amount of rancor towards him. After all, he is showing us parts of Italy we cannot reach, may never reach, couldn’t even find the places if we tried for a reach, right?

No, that’s all good. What caused me to twinge here and there while watching the series was a couple of other things.

First and foremost, the let’s take the little matter of wine. Oh, the Signore likes wine. It’s just not a main character in his play. Wine is an accompaniment to the larger picture – food. Oh, and culture and his family history and his ability to make something so natural, in Italy, seem like something so unattainable.

Big Night/YouTube

Which leads me to my other gripe, if you will. I mean, in the contest of actually loving everything he has done, including “That Movie” he did so long ago.

No, it’s that when he goes into a region, many of which I have deep experiences in (sans Sardegna) I know part of what he will find. And in some cases, he has found some of the same people and places (and foods) that I have come across in my 50+ years of traveling and living in Italy. So, I look for how he will perceive it and communicate it to his impatiently waiting audience in the greater world.

How will this winemaker, cheesemaker or chef come across? Will folks see this place as some place they’d like to go to someday? And if so, will that be a problem, ala “Under the Tuscan Sun,” when folks invaded Tuscany in search of their own personal sun? And the food – what happens to that cheesemaker in Altamura now? Will his business grow? Will it be the same? Will it change, maybe not for the better? After all, blue cheese from Puglia might not be the next Calabrian chile, but what if it is, in places like New York, London, San Francisco, Houston?

Not that it would necessarily be a bad thing. As long as the follow-though to the end user is as close to the personal experience in Italy, yes? And we all know that, in America at least, that process has improved markedly in the past 40 years.

But still, there’s always someone who will take the idea and try and replicate it, often with disastrous and sardonic results. I mean Pane Carasau from Sardegna can be produced in other places of the world, but that blood sausage that was spread on it, how will that iteration be managed? Or mismanaged?

You see, I am not even talking about wine now. It is still way in the background. You didn’t see any of it in Calabria, or Puglia, and the Sardegnan episode, you did, but who knew? You saw a lot of cleavage though.

Ok, cleavage still draws larger crowds than wine, even in these post #MeToo times. I say post not because we’re over it, but because we have passed over the threshold. I should have said present times. There, that better?

I haven’t seen Piedmont yet, maybe that episode will go deeper into it. And Venice, although if they go any deeper than un ombra I’d be surprised. Happily surprised.

Thankfully some of my special (and secret places) were not discovered by Signore Tucci’s advance team. Like the once-upon-a-time truck stop in Ciro. Or the sports bar in in Cisano Sul Neva in Savona (Liguria). And my beloved Puerto Baloo in San Benedetto del Tronto, Marche remains uncast in this series. So far.

One great surprise – the “new” 21st region of Italy – London. Now that intrigues me. I’ve not been deep in London since it has undergone its transformation as a global culinary centre. So, that is going on my bucket list. Thank you, Stanley. All is forgiven.



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