Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 140: Vedi Napoli e poi muori?

I only eat one pizza: the Napoletana.

As I loosely understand the history of Pizza, it (the pizza) originated in the city that lives in the shadow of Vesuvius (Naples), in the late 1800’s. Let me just step off the track of this story for a second and recommend a book that I only just got around to reading at the start of the this year, Susan Sontag’s ‘The Volcano Lover’, which is her “retelling of the story of Nelson and Emma Hamilton”. Nelson has always been a favourite son of the city from which I come - Portsmouth - not that he is a “Pompey boy”, it’s just that being England’s greatest naval hero and the fact that he set out to conquer the French and die at Trafalgar, from my hometown port (where his ship HMS Victory) now lies in dry dock....well, I’m sure that you get the idea. Let’s just say that ‘The Volcano Lover’ has opened my eyes to some facts that I wasn’t aware of, in regards to Horatio, Viscount, Duke of Bronte (1758-1805), British Admiral, facts that have made me pause for thought in my understanding of this great man; but a great read that book is.

So, Naples, home of the Pizza....not Pizza Hut, not Domino’s. Legend has it that in 1889, when visiting Naples, Queen Margherita of Savoy was served a Pizza that resembled the colours of the Italian flag: red (tomato), white (Mozarella) and green (basil), hence we now have the Pizza Margherita. But, there’s more.

Some rules. Let me quote to you from the web site of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, an association set up to “safeguard and promote the culture of the real, artisan Neapolitan pizza worldwide”, a non-profit body. This august body of men, up to their necks in flour and dough, say this, that there are three official variants of pizza: pizza marinara (tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil, sometimes basil), pizza margherita (tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil, extra virgin olive oil) and the conundrum that is the Napoletana, for which it doesn’t detail exact ingredients, so I will: tomato, anchovies, black olives, extra-virgin olive oil, THAT’S IT, NOTHING ELSE.

As I said at the beginning of this article, I only ever order the Napoletana, I am well-known for it amongst close friends, maybe two friends in particular who have often witnessed my fastidiousness around this unbelievably important business. I’m not sure, but I think they live more in fear than I do of the pizza restaurant or trattoria that goes off-piste with their Napoletana, adding bits and pieces of their own creation, for goodness sake. Pizza cooks have tried to slip garlic, chilli, basil, capers and all manner of things past the gate, but they are unaware that I am the veritable gatekeeper and a self-appointed, unofficial & uncredited emissary of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana and that my brief is to deal with any such nonsense as and when I come across it. I can wither a waiter to the marrow with my look of disdain when “something” is placed in front of me that claims to be a Napoletana; don’t worry about deep pan, I have a deadpan countenance that you do not want to encounter that will tell you, through my eyes alone, just what I think of whatever it is that has been tricked up and set down in front of me. I can see an impostor coming before the pretender is out of the wood-fired oven.

Now, an eatery can add any of these edible curios to what they call a “Napoletana” if that is how they like to go about their business, but then they must accept the fact that their “Napoletana” pizza becomes something else; they are free to call it what they like but, mark my words, it is no longer a “Napoletana”, it’s something, I know not what, but not a “Napoletana”, not on my watch, so don’t even think about trying to serve it up to me and pass it off as one.

The good thing about only ever eating the one pizza is that I have become somewhat of an expert (in the kingdom of my own mind) on the Napoletana, just as I have on the Caesar Salad, but that dish and those regulations are for another day.

One last thing (and it repulses me to even think about this, let alone write it down). What the f**k is the “gourmet pizza”? I do not understand the “gourmet pizza” nor do I want any truck with it, what is such an abomination? Tandoori chicken belongs somewhere but not on a pizza, same for roasted vegetables (pumpkin and caramelised onion), fetta, salmon and “dessert pizzas”. You’ve got to be stark-raving mad and should be arrested if you cook them or eat them.

Day #140 Tip: A process that works, for you
The very backbone of this blog, from start to to finish has been me sharing with you the process that I use over six months to write a feature film screenplay. It is well documented here that the way I do it, is more or less a carbon carbon of the suggested “Writer’s Method” that Robert McKee espouses and outlines in his book ‘Story’. The only reason that I use this “method” is because it works for me, it suits me and I love working this way.

I quote McKee all the time on this Blog: “McKee this, Hollywood Bob that” and I do that to, hopefully, ensure that no one reading this thinks that I’m trying to pass off Robert McKee’s ideas as my own. I quote Mckee to make sure that everyone knows that these are his ideas and I’m just sharing my experience of working with them.

A friend came to me with a not unusual and exciting question this week: “I’ve got an idea for a film, how do I go about writing it.” I referred him to Chapter 19, pg’s 410-417 of ‘Story’ and/or this Blog, for one reason and one reason only: he asked of my opinion because he knows that I have some experience in this field and I can only, honestly pass onto him my experience..........
experience that has worked for me.

This “method” may not be right for you, find a way that is, that you do enjoy, that gives you the freedom to be creative within and repeat the exercise again and again and again.

And meantime, feed the hunger; we’re gonna need all the pizza we can get.

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