By now it’s something of a ritual, the glass jar containing the slurry of water and green tea leaves brewing in the sun of the school’s garden. It takes another day to actually chill that much volume, my tiny Italian refrigerator’s motor revving through the night.
Come early July each year, I spend a day sipping 5 liters of cold green tea, plotting and planing the following year’s School Calendar for Cooking Classes in 2019. I Google industry trends, I call friends that work for the Puglia tourist board. I ask those that have been to the school 5 or 10 times (the list of those that have been that many times continues to grow). I use all the resources, just shy of consulting a milky-eyed gypsy.
And as often as not, I’m completely wrong.
Take our week dedicated to making our annual tomato sauce course at the castle. What once had a 3 year waiting list now often gets sanded off the calendar by Christmas. Our new The Jewish Cooking of Southern Italy Course on the other hand moved from once to three times a year, the very first year. As has our ‘annual’, bicycle /food /wine class, which now runs 4 times a year.
Last year’s ‘Mindfulness in Food and Wine’, will likely morph into a Yoga Course, the healthiness of The Mediterranean Diet Course a great bedrock for both.
But there are two other major sea changes for next year’s classes, one national and the other personal. Nearby Matera has been chosen as the capitol of European culture for a year long festival. It’s an enormous honour, perhaps larger and longer-lasting than even hosting the Olympics.
What was once the last 20 pages in a 300 page book on Italy, Southern Italy will be the known centre of European culture for an entire year.
But it’s the timing that is also remarkable, in an era that represents a sea change in international tourism itself, which now more closely mimics domestic tourism (enjoying each region for what it does best, as opposed to ‘pesto, pizza and risotto…. in Florence’, etc.). And Matera.
It’s hard to imagine a better example of a place so achingly ready for its spotlight. That it’s one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited communities only re-enforces the argument.
The other new element to a 15 year old business is that this year I had to write the Cooking Classes Calendar for 2019 around the shooting and editing schedule: I’m starting work on a feature film about wine.
After 11 annual, multi-monthed-long bicycle trips around Southern Italian wine country, I’m turning it into a feature-length film that I intend to enter in many of the world’s film festivals and then eventually sell to Netflix. If you’re on our list, you’ll see updates and links to our ‘the making of’, on our official YouTube Channel.
Like most things in life, the fact that I’m doing everything myself is both the benediction and the curse. ‘Curse’ in that I have to learn all of the elements of filmmaking, a one-man crew. But the ‘benediction’ is that I won’t have to pay more talented people to stand around waiting for me to learn how to get it right. I can shoot and reshoot as much as needed.
And again, the blessing and curse is that all my gear has to fit into my bicycle panniers, forcing me to rely on story rather than all the electronic toys you can be convinced to buy for filmmaking. I’ll also be editing the film throughout the year, so that it will be ready shortly after I finish the photography.
What I’ll drink while editing will likely be green tea as well, a trail on the way to the school’s bathroom, the glossy tile glaze, worn down to expose the fired red earth below.
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