Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Terra-Cotta Dog (Il Cane di Terracotta)

The Terracotta Dog
The Terra-Cotta Dog (2003) is the second in the Inspector Montalbano Mystery series by Andrea Camilleri (1925 - ). Il Cane di Terracotta (1996) is the Italian title. The events unfold around the fictional town of Vigàta in Sicily in the fictional province of Montelusa. Salvo Montalbano, a police inspector (commissario di polizia), investigates a few contemporary crimes and one fifty-year old crime. It is the latter that occupies Montalbano for the bulk of the book. The inspector is obsessed with reconstructing the last days of two young lovers during 1943, the year of the Allied landing in Sicily. The titular terra-cotta dog guards the couple in their death. As the circumstances of their death are unraveled by Montalbano we learn that the seven sleepers story is involved.

The Terra-Cotta Dog follows the pattern of a quick moving plot line, lucky breaks, and a tough but lovable detective who may stretch the truth from time to time to make sure justice ultimately prevails. Montalbano occupies himself with understanding the truth of an event or action even when his colleagues and friends have moved on. In The Terra-Cotta Dog Montalbano works to put his mind at rest as to what happened to the two young lovers; current investigations almost bore him. In The Shape of Water Montalbano does much the same in that he does not accept what looked like a stock answer to a death.

In the course of Montalbano stewing over the two deaths, he eats his way to temporary relief thanks to his favorite restaurant Trattoria San Calogero, his housekeeper Adelina, and his friends. Here are a few of the food references Camilleri manages to work into the story:

· mostaccioli (mostazzoli) - a cookie based on almonds
· passaluna olives - a type of the Ogliarola
· càlia e simenza - a mix of roasted chickpeas and pumpkin seeds
· tabsica - an oval-shaped pizza
· pasta ‘ncasciata - a baked macaroni dish with beef, cheese and béchamel
· petrafèrnula - a type of cake based on honey, orange, and citron rinds
· mèusa – calf’s spleen (or lamb?) sliced into thin strips and cooked in fat
· pasta con le sarde - classic Sicilian dish served usually with bucatini and a sauce of fresh sardines, tops of wild fennel, pine nuts, raisins, garlic and saffron
· purpi alla carrettera - octopus served in a sauce of olive oil, lemon, and hot pepper

There is a web site, Le ricette di Montalbano, that gives recipes for food items described in the book. Buon appetito!

The image shown below is the Italian version front cover. In copertina: Ammaestractrice di cani di Antonio Donghi. Collezione del Banco di Roma, Roma.
Il cane di terracotta

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