As a service for Dutch people who cannot go on holiday, the public broadcaster offers a wide range of travel programmes. Someone else goes on a trip for you and shows their holiday videos. Floortje Dessing was on repeat in the Slovenian mountains last week, André van Duin glided past the Zaanse Schans, and Tom Waes was among the garbage processors of Cairo.
Of The cook and the director (NPO2) AvroTros has made a clever stew of various TV genres: it is a travel program with art and food. Director Taco Dibbits and chef Joris Bijdendijk of the Rijksmuseum went to Sicily together on Sunday to admire the local architecture and food culture.
Sicily has a layered fusionculture, that’s how we learn. The southern Italian island has often had other masters, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, all of whom left their mark on the culture. Hence, for example, the Sicilian couscous. Dibbits also shows an Italian facade for a Greek temple. Unfortunately no example of the Normans.
Omroep AvroTros wants to bring the arts to the people and believes in the sandwich method: you let in Maestro a flexible rapper waves a baton in front of an orchestra and hopes that viewers will buy a record of Beethoven the next day. In The cook and the director the sandwich method lies in the neat alternation of food and art: first to the lemon grove, then a Greek temple, then fresh fish, a Roman villa, with lemon ice cream. Yes, it is often about lemons in Sicily. They must be green. Much more fragrant and tastier than the yellow ones, the Sicilians say.
What sticks best from this episode is the special painting The funeral of Saint Lucy (1608). A local monk tells Dibbits and Bijdendijk that the painting hangs where the saint was actually beheaded. Beheaded? But in the painting her head is still on it. She does have a cut on her neck. What’s up with that?
Sword stitch in the neck
There is a dispute over Lucia’s death, it seems. Clearly a sword thrust to the neck, the church leadership says. No, she was beheaded, the Sicilians say. Painter Caravaggio had initially painted a loose head, but then he changed his mind. In this painting he stays away from the usual slashers that other painters of Santa Lucia make. She is often depicted with her two eyes outstretched on a saucer – she is the patron saint of the blind. The irascible Caravaggio had stabbed someone to death on a tennis court, had been sentenced to beheading, and had finally fled to Sicily. Since then he has obsessively painted beheadings.
All this I had to look up after the broadcast. Taco Dibbits, director of the Rijksmuseum, could have clarified this in the program. But no, he still had to eat a lemon ice cream that day. That is the disadvantage of the sandwich method: you only get a small bite of everything.
You have journalistic travel programmes, such as Bram Vermeulen’s, in which you really learn something about the world. Then you have the travel programs that are mainly aimed at beautiful encounters and stories, such as Floortje Dessing’s. And then there’s the tourist travel program in which the presenter stays neatly within the tourist clichés, such as 3 on a trip† The country is just decor. Because Dibbits and Bijdendijk don’t dwell on anything for long, The cook and the director too much such a tourist program.