TUESDAY 10 APRIL 2012 THE OXFORD LITERARY FESTIVAL
An Evening at the Oxford Literary Festival
Last Monday I was a guest at a splendid occasion, the Sunday Times, Oxford Gastronomica and Oxford Literary Festival dinner at Gee’s Restaurant. My good friend, Giorgio Locatelli, prepared the dinner to celebrate his books “Made in Italy” and “Made in Sicily”. The chief guest at this Italian feast was Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food Movement, whose espousal of a food supply that is both good and fair is an agenda which we can all support.
Among the other guests at our table was Claudia Roden. Whose book on Italian food is well known (and whose new book on Spanish food has just been published) andalso among the guests was the celebrated writer of crime novels set in Venice, Donna Leon. Guess who was the odd one out? Perhaps it was a Frenchman who has spent his entire career working in Britain.
So naturally the guests elected me to say some words of thanks on our behalf to Jeremy Mogford, our host, and to Giorgio for the dinner. And of course I also spoke about my own passions, and how appropriate it was to blend food and literature at this wonderful event. Carlo’s presence made me reflect on how we all need to think about what kind of agriculture we shall have in the future, and how we treat our seafood resources, and care for the environment and our own carbon footprints.
And then, I am going to have a Festival of Art de Vivre (about which I shall write more soon), and that made me think about how our ideas of luxury are changing. I think we all now see that the ability to grow and eat a perfect apple – not one that simply looks beautiful, but an apple with intense fragrance, flavour and a lovely texture – is an experience of luxury.
I realise that in my extemporaneous speech I slightly exceeded my brief to say “thank you”. So I was not surprised to learn that during it Carlo said to Giorgio, “He is so passionate he is even more Italian than we are”.
Among my table companions that evening were Professor Janet Beer, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes and her husband, who told me a lovely joke, and I can not help passing it on to you: “What do Pablo Picasso and HM the Queen have in common? A Blue Period!”. As a French republican, I enjoyed the joke.
This evening also made me a very happy man as I found our very first star speaker, for our L’Art de Vivre Festival, which will be held 16-18 April 2013, where youth will be given a platform and showcased. This young man is only 18 years of age and already has an incredible CV – he is studying biological sciences at Somerville College, Oxford, and he is completely steeped in sustainability, with a hugely creative spirit. Already having won an award as an International Eco-Hero, I feel sure this young man is going to change the world!
L'Art de Vivre Festival 2013 will be one of the most significant festivals in Britain; it will salute youth, innovation, gastronomy and sustainable luxury. This festival is to be an elegant, three-day event where everything that is exceptional in France and Britain will be celebrated by us all.
Here is Giorgio’s menu and the wines:
Gees Restaurant & Bar
OXFORD GASTRONOMICA LITERARY DINNER WITH GIORGIO LOCATELLI
NV Prosecco Brut Quartese DOC Ruggeri
Arancini di carne, Insalata di mare, Panelle di ceci
(Rice balls with meat and peas, seafood salad, Sicilian chickpea fritters)
NV Presecco, Mirabello,Veneto, Italy
Busiate con ragu di tonno
(Ricotta pasta with tuna, anchovy and tomato sauce)
Grillo 2011.Ca’di Ponti, Sicily
Braciolette di pesce spade
(Swordfish steaks with breadcrumbs, capers and cheese)
E’100 per cento Chardonnay 2010, Sicily
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