Antonio Carluccio OBE. A Legendary Italian Chef – in Yorkshire? Were my eyes deceiving me?
No, not a bit. Last Sunday Erik and I rose early and drove through East Yorkshire, up through the Wolds, into North Yorkshire, to the Malton Food Festival. This is one of my favourite routes, but this time I tried to look at the Wolds through David Hockney’s eyes (and almost succeeded). Past Beverley, eyes widening at miss-matched patchwork fields coloured with every shade from earthy terracotta, all shades of green and vast blobs of vivid yellow until we reached Wetwang (yes, a village called Wetwang). Turn right to Malton, and the landscape changes, into one of huge green fields, old farms, swathes of forest on undulating hills which seem to roll up and down, as if encompassing us and folding us up in their arms. I always feel safe here, as if the earth is reaching out to protect us, and thousands of years ago, others felt the same. A number of bronze-age burials have been discovered in this part of the Wolds in recent years, one being a very high-status lady, with her chariot and jewels. So I always feel as if I am coming home. Strange, I know, but true.
It’s a great road to travel on, early on a Sunday morning, and in less than an hour, we had driven from just above the Humber and reached Malton. The ancient market place had been transformed – the old gateways into it superceeded by white marquees with hundreds of officials to check our tickets and help with our queries.
Once inside, we paused, and blinked. The different areas of the marketplace were littered with hundreds of food stalls, and some big tents set up as demonstration areas. Our eyes lit up at the first stall we came across. “Produotti Mainieri” overflowing with ‘authentic Italian Ingredients’. Salamis so pungent and cheeses so creamy that even at that early hour our mouths watered. What more could we ask for? A quick ‘skeg’ at the produce, a nod and ‘Giorno’ to the Italian stallholders, then we moved on, making a mental note to return and fill our bags with some of the gorgeous goodies.
Just as we were wandering around, we heard a voice. We turned to each other and frowned, trying to place it. Then turning around, we realised we were listening to one of our food heros, that legendary Italian chef, Antonio Carluccio OBE. We have bought his books for years, and “Two Hungry Italians”, his new TV programme on at the moment with Gennaro Contaldo is one of our favourites. But there he stood, 75 years of age, tiny but formidable, swathed in a huge, bright yellow scarf, gesturing as only Italians can do, and chatting in a soft and gentle voice.
Erik bought out his camera, and took this photo. Antonio wandered around the Festival, talking to everyone, sat for a coffee, had his photo taken with anyone who asked (I didn’t have the nerve, sadly) and carried out a demonstration so popular that the crowds were 10 deep outside the tent. He also chatted about his recent two books, “Two Greedy Italians” and “Two Greedy Italians Eat Italy”, which have been added to my lengthening wish list.
But it’s amazing to think that this legendary Italian chef was in Yorkshire, not Italy. Despite that, he looked content, at home and happy. Antonio Carluccio, OBE, is now a Patron of the Malton Food Festival, and seemed to be enjoying it immensely. What a lovely man, and such a character.
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More about Malton Food Festival coming soon.