The end of the Italian Greedy Cook’s quest

Ostuni in Puglia

All Soul's Day procession, Tucson AZ, 2008
All Soul’s Day procession, Tucson AZ, 2008

I was rather sad last night knowing I was watching the last of the series of four programmes, Two Greedy Italians which has delighted me these past weeks. Indeed, the programme itself  had an aura of sadness as they attended the Puglia celebrations for the day of the dead, All Souls Day, Gennaro spent time in the church remembering the souls of the departed. They visited a monastery that used to be renowned for growing and cooking fabulous food for the monks.They found the gardens abandoned, the produce sold was not produced in the monastery but came from nearby, the food that was once renowned, prepared in the wonderful kitchen, now modest. The reason soon became obvious as the numbers of visitors who come to view the relics increases exponentially the numbers of men willing to devote their lives to God has diminished, leaving only 5 monks to not only tend to their religious duties but oversee the visitors, acting as guides, not really what they signed up for I’m sure. Antonio and Gennaro also visited the shrine of Saint Padre Pio , Gennaro’s personal saint, here again commercialism and popularism has overrun its simple spiritual origins. Gennaro was sincere in his firm beliefs and I can understand that part of him which yearns for a simpler more contemplative life away from the materialistic temptations of today.  I could see Antonio’s sadness at this rampant commercialism that seems to have overtaken the spiritual. Wherever in this world of ours something attracts a following, whether it be saintly or sinful, not far behind there will be someone with an eye to making a fast buck out of it. The the tale of Jesus turning out the money lenders from the temple sprang to mind.

But later in the programme Antonio and Gennaro go foraging in the woods for mushrooms and I agreed wholeheartedly with Antonio’s sentiment that here in the heart of the countryside, where life and death are in a – circle and the towering trees form an arch above your head with the breeze rustling the leaves, is the true cathedral of god. Here one can feel the presence of something far more powerful than ourselves at work. Churches, cathedrals and all that is inside them are man – made, surely to feel a creator’s presence you should put yourself in the heart of their creations. All the paraphernalia that goes with religions is superfluous, just look at a  beautiful flower, watch the surf of the ocean, hug a tree here you will see and feel true majesty.

It is not difficult to see that life today is very complicated and there are pressures that lie all around us, more and more people need something to cling to that gives them a feeling of security , something to believe in, to know that someone is looking out for them. But too how sad that there are always unscrupulous people out to exploit that?

Through these four programmes it has become obvious how genuinely fond these two men are of each other, despite the inevitable minor irritations that surely are found in all relationships over a period of time. They share a passion for food and their  homeland and this to me is so reminiscent of Cypriots. As they travelled through Italy and visited the different regions with their speciality foods, the similarities to the rural way of life in Cyprus came back to me time and again. I bid a  fond farewell to two greedy Italians.

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