Istria: A Franco Fasiolo Novel — Chapter 5

Tomaso De Giovanni

Chapter Five

In which Catia and Franco have coffee and milk and cookies, and talk about wheat berries and real berries, and about bottles and labels and stories, and many other things.

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Read Chapter 3

Read Chapter 4

So. Istria. Catia.

Yes. Franco.

Doing what? Catia.

A winemaker wants me to write a geographical history, or a historical geography, no, geographical history is better, or maybe a place biography, something like that, about his family vineyard. Franco.

Why does he want this? Catia.

I am not sure. I think he is curious. All he has is a little write up that someone did. It’s interesting, but I do something more complex. Franco.

I’m sure. Catia.

I mean, I’ll start with what he has, talk to people, a local historian if there is one, and there always is one, talk to people on and around the place, naturalists too, and then go to Rovigno, maybe local archives, to see what they have. It is kind of imprecise, but I try to stick to the records as much as I can. Franco.

And so what, you give him a report? Catia.

More a story. Franco.

And then he does what? Catia.

I don’t know, maybe he can give copies to his kids. Maybe he can stick it on his wine bottles. Franco.

All of it? Catia.

Well, no, little snatches of it. He can pick what he likes. They also use it at conventions, in marketing campaigns. I’ll suggest he get a photographer also, because vineyards photograph really well. You can’t say that about other crops. Franco.

Wheat? Catia.

Too monochrome. Franco.

Olives? Too something, not sure, too green, too big. Franco.

Strawberries? Catia.

Cute, but there is no terroir to strawberries, no story, at least no land story. Franco.

Buckwheat? Catia.

I would love to tell the story about buckwheat. Grano saraceno. The grains are beautiful, the stalks too, and there’s a great big history behind it, or at least I think so. The name kind of says it. Franco.

Saracens? Catia.


Who were they? Catia.

Phoenicians, I think. Franco.

Right. North African. Catia.

Malvasia Odorosissima. Franco.

What’s that? Catia.

The variety of grape that Paolo Burolino grows. Franco.

Is that the man in Istria? Catia.

Yes. Franco.

That’s not such a nice name. Catia.

What, Burolino? Franco.

No. Odorosissima. Catia.

Yes, I know. We can just say Malvasia Istriana. Franco.

Better. Catia.

Better. Franco.

These cookies are grano saraceno. Franco.

And chocolate. Catia.

Cioccolato saraceno. Franco.

Did Phonecians have chocolate? Catia.

Nope, don’t think so. Franco.

Too bad. Catia.

Too bad. Franco.

Franco picked up the bowls and put them in the sink.

Done? Something else? Franco.

No, I’m fine. Catia.

How’s the pizza place? Franco.

It’s okay. I like working for Marco. Catia.

Is that his little girl? Franco.

Amelia. Yes. Catia.

When was the last time anyone came up with a new pizza? Franco.

All the time. Catia.

Really? Franco.

Really. Catia.

Like what? Franco.

Wheat berries. Catia.

Nuh uh. Franco.

Uh huh. I just invented it. Catia.

When? Franco.

Just now. Catia.

Wheat berries and what? Franco.

Real berries. Catia.

Franco washed the bowls in the sink.

And? What else? Franco.

Ricotta. Catia.

Actually, it is starting to sound good. Franco.

I am a pizza genius. Catia.

You are. Franco.

It’s strange that there are not more sweet pizzas. Catia.

Yeah, but your wheat berry pizza would not be really sweet. Franco.

It could be. Or it could be savory. Catia.

Or both. Franco.

Mixed bodies. Catia.

Mixed bodies. Franco.

So that will be like your geographical history, right? Catia.

I hope so, if he lets me. A lot of times these guys want a kind of corporate or industrial version of a place’s story and I always try to persuade them otherwise. Franco.

People are good at smelling fraud. Catia.

Thank God for that. Franco.

So you have your grapes, your Malvasia whatevers. Catia.

Right. Franco.

What else? Catia.

I don’t know. Franco.

What before them? Catia.

Don’t know. That’s what I have to find out. Franco.

Catia got up and began to look around. It was bigger than she expected, but that was because she did not know what to expect. The hothouse, or greenhouse, was like being inside and outside at the same time.

Don’t you get cold living here, with all of this glass? Catia.

Sometimes, but you would be surprised. Whoever built it did a great job of positioning it. Franco.

You don’t know who built it? Catia.

No. I should, but I don’t. Franco.

What’s that they say about the shoemaker’s children? Catia.

Shoemaker? Franco.

So, the place biographer does not know the history of his own house, lives in a house that is both inside and outside… Catia

Has breakfast with a woman who is a stranger but also isn’t a stranger. Franco.

Corpo misto. Catia.

Mixed bodies. Franco.

Campo misto. Catia.

Mixed field. Franco.

I like that better. Catia.

Me too. Franco.

I guess it depends. If you think you are writing a biography of a place. Why biography? You are not writing about just the living parts. Catia.

It’s a good point. I guess the bio- refers more to a life than to the living. Franco.

So there’s a beginning and an end? Catia.

Well, a beginning but not the beginning, and a now but not an end. Franco.

So you will talk about insects? Catia.

I think so. Franco.

And rocks? Catia.

Yes. Franco.

And vines. Catia.

For sure. Franco.

And water. Catia.

Yes. Franco.

And sunshine. Catia.

Yup. Franco.

And people. Catia.

Absolutely. Franco.

And this is all based on science. Catia.

Science, research, observation, imagination. Franco.

Narration. Catia.

Narration? Well, that’s how I’ll be telling the story. Franco.

It’s also how you’ll be making the story. Catia.

How so? Franco.

By accident. The accident of words. The accident of grammar and sound and chance that all contribute to meaning, shape meaning, guide the story. Catia.

What can I do? Franco.

Nothing. Language is the trap and the bait, the boat and the river. Catia.

The habitat and the habitant. Franco.

The field and the body. Catia.

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