Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Skye and Corsica: compare and discuss…

Last week I found myself on Skye, the beautiful Scottish isle of the Inner Hebrides that’s so unlike Corsica.

Yes, the weather is particularly different. For the two days we were there, it poured, except for a brief respite on our first evening when the rain abated and the midges emerged. And while I was covering my skin with soothing balm, we saw Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Adventures on the UK’s BBC2 Channel.

I’m delighted that one of our favourite celebrity chefs started his adventure on Corsica. I understand that visitor figures for both and hit big highs (an all time record for the latter) over the next few days and it’s reckoned that an additional 1,000 people from the UK went on these two sites alone as a result of viewing the programme. And that’s got to be good for Corsica’s tourism, which is such an important element in the island’s economy (just as it is with Skye’s, as it happens).

However, I was disappointed with one or two aspects of the coverage. First of all, Stein’s programme gave the impression that all Corsica’s food is about stews and pigs. The programme's treatise on the making of figatellu would have ensured that no vegetarian viewer ever goes to the island for a holiday! And he forgot about the wonderful lamb and (free-range) veal dishes that make Corsica’s mountain menus a delight.

In describing Napoleon as Corsica’s favourite son, wasn’t he forgetting that this position undoubtedly belongs to Pascal Paoli? Napoleon did few favours for the island of his birth during his tumultuous “reign”. Pascal Paoli, on the other hand, was to a certain extent responsible for the importance of chestnuts in the Corsican diet, and for this reason alone he deserved a mention in this food programme.

But what I can’t forgive is the programme’s brusque treatment of Corsican wines. The island’s unique grape varieties deserved more than Stein’s grudging mention of Patrimonio, and his adulation of Sardinia’s Vermentinos later in the programme rubbed salt into the wound. Corsica produces wonderful reds and excellent whites (Vermentinus here of course). He should try Clos Fornelli’s excellent white (East Coast), and Renucci’s fragrant white (from the Balagne region) next time he’s here.

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