Friday, April 27, 2007

A project in mind

After what seems like an eternity away from the keyboard in any creative sense I think I might just about be ready to get back into book-writing mode. My target this time is the totally unambitious idea of writing "The Great Scottish Italian Novel" (that's not the title, by the way). As far as I am aware nobody has done it so far. There have been a few non-fiction books on the subject, some plays and screenplays and a few novels that have scratched the surface. But nothing going into the depth I would like to reach - a kind of Godfather trilogy for the fish and chip frying fraternity.

The premise is simple enough, really, tell the story of a family forced to leave Italy through poverty in the early 20th century. Their trials and tribulations in Scotland, tough times through the Second World War when many were interned and finally, I guess, their victory over that adversity. Something along those lines anyway.

At the moment I am trying to immerse myself in the culture of Italy from about 1900 to 1940, if anybody has any recommended reading material it would be gratefully accepted. Of course, another part of my inspiration will be some truly bad, home-brewed grappa. Although probably not too much or I might find myself slumped across my computer.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A salute to the Generali

I like to think it takes a special occasion to prompt the opening of a new bottle of grappa. So what better occasion than it being Thursday night again? Or, more truthfully, the fact that my best grappa-guzzling pal and co-author of these diaries was in town.

Whatever the reason, I plucked my new bottle down from the shelf with the usual feelings of joy and trepidation. Don't get me wrong, I know I am going to enjoy the drink but just how much? Will it measure up to the anticipation as you open its cardboard box, cut the plastic seal and hear the reassuring "pop" as the cork slips from the bottle?

The answer, of course, was yes. What do you expect from a grappa di brunello? Like Milan in Europe, they rarely let you down. This particular variety hails from Il Forteto, a vineyard just one kilometre from Montalcino which also produces Brunello (of course) and its own olive oil (which lacks the same punch). I have put a link at the bottom if you want to read more.

I was not firing on full review cylinders when I sampled it - but then a huge Chinese meal and a couple of Peronis will do that to you. Nonetheless, it seemed to have the right mix of rough and smooth, pleasure and pain that I look for in a good grappa. I may give a more considered opinion in future but drunk with a good friend on a Thursday evening after some fine conversation this certainly hit the spot.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A farewell to Zen

During my recent sojourn overseas (Millport) I was shocked to open the obituaries section in the Times to find one for one of my favourite British crime writers. Michael Dibdin, who brought the world the Venetian sleuth Aurelio Zen, was no more.

What I liked about his books was how deeply rooted in their locations they were and also how authentically he captured Italian attitudes. In addition, as a real Venezian, there was usually a bottle of grappa involved somewhere. I am sure it was Zen who claimed a cure for a bad cold was to drink a good bottle of red wine and a whole clove of garlic. Certainly worth a try, if not likely to boost your chances with the opposite sex.

The news reached me just as I was finishing Back to Bologna, the latest Zen novel I think. Which featured both football and grappa on its pages. Hard to think of a better combination than that. Addio, Zen.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The perfect day?

So I was offered a new job today which I accepted and decided to go out to celebrate at my local Italian restaurant with my brother and sister-in-law.

Anyhoo my brother was driving so when it came to ordering the after dinner drinks he decided to only have an espresso while I had my usual grappa and an espresso. Fortunately the waiter misheard and brought two grappas and two espressos. My brother being the sensible chap that he is decided not to say anything to the waiter but instead gave me the grappa. Could a man hope for a better brother?

So a new job and a free grappa. I've had worse days.........

Monday, April 02, 2007

Off to the islands

It is almost time for one of my regular trips to a small Scottish island to drink my father-in-law's whisky. Although, I have some fears since I heard reports he has given it up. Does that mean I will drink it alone? Or, worse, not at all?

You can imagine my concern. Perhaps a hip-flask of grappa will have to be packed. I just hope the kids don't get their hands on it...