I’m having a bit of a review week but I couldn’t resist writing about this great new series, the first part of which was on BBC2 tonight. At the risk of sounding sad, I’d been looking forward to it all day – Andrew Graham-Dixon, Giorgio Locatelli and Sicily all in one! I love Graham-Dixon’s programmes and have been known to say that I’d like to come back as a female version of him in my next life, travelling the world looking at art. But then I have a passion for travelling the world in this life and always with an eye to the food of wherever I am. And one of the most exciting places I’ve been to is Palermo, which is where our two travellers in this new series went tonight.
And after all that anticipation? Well, it was all justified – this is a sensationally good programme. There was Andrew bringing art to life and understanding in his own inimitably engaging way; Giorgio buying food in the Vucciria market and then cooking wonderful dishes, including a caponata which saw them putting this together while discussing Elizabeth David’s recipe in Italian Food (one of my favourite dishes), and Giorgio talking about ‘cooking with all the senses’, his passion for what he was doing wonderfully apparent.
But they didn’t just look at art and cooking, the programme explored the politics of modern Palermo where a restaurant owner is in hiding, his life in danger for standing up to the Mafia; they visited a puppet theatre and local artists who are putting their own slant on the Mafia in a way that wouldn’t have been possible twenty years ago.
What holds it all together and makes the programme so great to watch is the easy chemistry between the two men: they obviously enjoy each other’s company and it’s like watching two friends having a good time together. Often, these set-ups seem forced, conversations staged, but Graham-Dixon and Locatelli manage to present a relaxed, engaging but totally authentic exchange of ideas and passions. It’s very enjoyable watching them together … and this programme definitely deserves a second look on iPlayer.