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Salvo Montalbano and the Food

Salvo Montalbano and the Food

Are you a real fan of Montalbano, the detective created by Andrea Camilleri? What was his favourite food?

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Dear Salvo,

You might be wondering why instead of talking to you via our usual telephone calls – which have been rather story of late – I’ve decided to write. The most absurd part is that, considering the swiftness of the Italian postal service, it’s likely that I’ll arrive in Sicily myself before the letter does. But it doesn’t matter.

Recently, I haven’t been able to talk to you as I’d like to and when I come to Vigàta we always have so much to do that when I’m there, I’m at a loss for words. The last time, I really didn’t like the way we left things, to be honest. That exchange with Adelina didn’t go down well with me at all. Honestly, all I did was remind her that she shouldn’t cook such heavy food for you if she cares about your health: it wasn’t nice that you took her side instead of mine.

After so many years, I’m still wondering whether ours is really an impossible love story. It’s already hard enough being the girlfriend of a police commissioner, but being your girlfriend from a thousand kilometers away? I’ve reached a conclusion. The fault lies in the food. That’s right. It’s food that is the real cause of our incomprehensions.

There’s an extreme form of selfishness in your way of eating, a state of bliss that makes me nervous and envious. Sometimes I think that even if I were to dance naked in front of you while you were lifting a forkful of caponatina to your mouth, that you’d keep on eating. Don’t deny it.

I’m not telling you that you aren’t passionate enough with me, you know that’s not true.

But aren’t you the one who arrived late to pick me up at the airport just because you absolutely had to stop and wolf down fried anchovies? Don’t think that I didn’t realize it.

And who was it that gave up spending New Year’s Eve in Paris just so you wouldn’t miss Adelina’s arancini? Or wait, was it the pasta’ncasciata? I don’t remember.

This has nothing to do with conviviality, or the satisfaction of sharing food. You’ve fallen victim to the pleasure of “eating in silence”, with only your groans of pleasure, the whistling of fish bones between your teeth, the sound of sucking mussels, enjoying your maccheroni with your nose first, the smacking of your lips in front of a plate of pasta alla Norma and your purpi alla carrettiera. For you, food is the number one erotic pleasure, the dark object of desire for you is a plate of pasta with squid ink and fried mullet.

And you like to eat alone, with Adelina who mutters while she waits on you hand and foot – like the mother you no longer have. You don’t tolerate distractions when you eat; food should never be contaminated by work. You either work, or you eat – it’s one or the other. Unlike Maigret, the table isn’t the perfect place for you to solve the most complex crimes. Cooking doesn’t relax you like it does with Carvalhio and you don’t love the kinds of exquisite delicacies that send Nero Wolf over the moon. Food just steals you away. Food is an absolute object. You’re greedy, you have no brakes, no sense of moderation, you’re never contented. You take a bite, with never a sense of shame. The world of food is a private world where not even I am allowed to enter. A world tied to the past and traditions – as if eating were a form of regression.

Perhaps no woman has ever said these things to you and perhaps I will regret it, but I’m jealous of how you bite into things. Your relationship with food is almost orgasmic in nature. You’re even more selfish at the table. So much so that when Calogero, the cook at one of your favourite trattorie, told you that he’d be closing because of health problems, your first thought wasn’t for his own well-being at all. But instead your reply was, “And what about me?”

And what can I say about your sense of smell? That’s where food starts for you, that’s where love begins. It’s your most developed sense. It’s what helps you to solve crimes, what helps you to breathe in my female scent, to “sniff out” the coralline sauce with lobster eggs and sea urchins even through a closed refrigerator door.

And so I bow before your true passion: food. And while I declare that I still love you, I resign myself to taking second place. I’ve come to the point of feeling guilty because I don’t know how to cook, and so, in a boundless act of love I’ve decided to take an epic step, just for you: I’m going to learn how to make Sicilian arancini.

Yours, Livia

  • Keaton79 said on

    Hello just to point out a new book on inspector montalbano places recipes.

  • Colliedale said on

    oh i have just found this fabulous article and love it! very clever, to the point and full of insightful comment!! I am going on the filming locations tour in a week's time and love all things Montalbano, maybe his biggest fan in the Southern Hemisphere I think ,so travelling a long way to fulfil the fantasy of swimming on that beach! and of course hoping to hear that little beat up car come screaming around the corner to a full stop perilously close to the edge as one does not want to be 'late for lunch' !!!

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