Reading tantalizingly glowing reviews about the BBC2 series ‘Sicily Unpacked’ made me all the more frustrated about the BBC’s policy of restricting their audiences to the home front. ‘Currently BBC iPlayer TV programmes are available to play in the UK only’. The TV travelogue, presented by Michelen-starred chef Giorgio Locatelli and art critic Andrew Graham Dixon, appears to have not only informed, but entertained British viewers, judging from the feedback we received last night from friends in Britain, who had just finished watching the third and final episode of the series.
Last May, Giorgio and Andrew arrived at the vineyard in style, driving a sleek Maserati and accompanied by a charming young film crew. Andrew was dressed in a crisp white shirt and dark slacks, looking every bit the Englishman abroad. In contrast, Giorgio wore a navy, silk Brioni shirt and navy trousers. After the introductions, Giorgio, Andrew and Ciro were put to work by Karen McGann, the director, who suggested a stroll through the terraced vines with Ciro, chatting informally about winemaking on Etna and how it dates back to the period of the Greeks. They carefully waded their way through the vines, selecting a few leaves, which Giorgio was to use as one of the ingredients for a dish he was to prepare for us, before returning to the shady area in the heart of Cisterna Fuori, where Ciro introduced them to our Outis Bianco and Outis Rosso. A number of takes were required owing to outside noise disturbances, glasses were re-filled again and again, Giorgio tossing his long wavy hair back in laughter at Andrew’s jokes, who was eventually told to stop misbehaving by the producer.
Prior to their visit, I had been emailed a shopping list of the ingredients that Giorgio required for what he had decided to prepare, which included flour, salt, eggs, beer and 5 litres of cooking oil. Having checked he had all that he required, filming then switched to the outside kitchen area we use for entertaining in the summer months. Giorgio began by skillfully whisking a batter mixture together with two forks, dunked the leaves into it, then gently lowered them one by one into the hot oil. When he was satisfied with the end product, he carried them over to the table where Ciro and Andrew were eagerly waiting to taste them.
After the filming was concluded, we were all able to relax and the film crew finally had the opportunity to taste the wines. Whilst nibbling on the remaining vine leaves, chunks of bread and slices of local salami and cheese that we had provided, Giorgio informed us that in the past, when food was scarce in Sicily, a mind boggling combination of things had been fried in batter, a forerunner to the ‘frittelle’, which is so very part of ‘la cucina Sicilana’ today. It’s not surprising to read that the series has been such a success, as Giorgio and Andrew acted as two knowledgable guides during the series and generously shared their knowledge, painting a colourful image of centuries of life in Sicily. Despite not having met each other before the programme was made, they had clearly bonded over the plates of food, wine and paintings, and appeared to us that day, to have become firm friends.
‘Sicily unpacked’ may be seen on http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b019f8vm/episodes/guide