The late Michael Dibdin, author of black tales of grit and grime set in various Italian cities, liked to lend an atmospheric aura around his detective Aurelio Zen. With a name like that, it should be obvious that the investigator was a multifaceted talent. In And Then You Die, he takes a moment from undercover copping in Rome to enjoy his usual repast.
'So where were you?
'At the end of the earth, Ernesto. It's a long story, and I've got an appointment at the office in fifteen minutes. Meanwhile I'm ready for some real food.'
'Right away, dottore! The usual?'
Ernesto took one of the filled rolls from the glass cabinet, set it on a plate, then added two more thick slices from the roast and set it down in front of Zen along with a small carafe of white wine and a knife and a fork.
'I carved it extra fatty,' he said with a conspiratorial wink. 'You're looking a bit peaky, dottore. We'll have to feed you up.'
Zen cut a chunk of the pale, perfumed meat and started to chew. Apart from wine, Ernesto only served one thing: porchetta, choice young piglets from farmers personally known to him, stuffed wtih fennel and herbs, slowly roasted to moist perfection on a spit and served cold with chewy fresh bread. The crackling was a crisp layer of rich delights, the fat a creamy, unctuous decadence, the flesh tender and aromatic. Even the generic Castelli Romani wine, which couldn't have been given away free as a household cleanser in Venice, tasted blandly acceptable to Zen today.