Inspired by an old friend, TNE’s resident food columnist creates a recipe with olives, anchovies and capers
The modern age confounds me. The onset of the seemingly surreptitious cyber revolution has impacted our lives in subtle and subliminal ways.
The first Scottish independence referendum created cyber soldiers, slugging it out for Scotland, hope over fear, Better Together besting the civic nationalists. Brexit was bought by boorish and blatant lies, myriad media misrepresentation; the sale sealed by social networks. Trump triumphed on Twitter, twenty-four/seven, firing falsehood and fiction in one hundred and forty characters.
After the mainstream media’s abject capitulation – through wave after wave of vested interest journalism – the power of social media has never been more pronounced. And while occasionally beacons burn brilliantly on the horizon in terms of the established press (this newspaper being one), our lives, our politics and our everything is increasingly being expressed remotely. Twitter not only shapes the zeitgeist; it is the zeitgeist.
But in amongst the surly slings, the accused arrows of outrageous virtual warfare are little lights of loveliness. New friends, excellent jokers, hilarious parodies and a plethora of food-related deliciousness. Last week I hosted a Book Week Scotland event with a guy called David Ross. This very successful, internationally prolific director of Scotland’s most respected architecture practice is also a celebrated writer. We met on Twitter (@dfr10). There’s a guy called Jason (@NickMotown). I remember when he started out he had but a handful of followers. Today he has more than 20,000, all of whom enjoy his unique comic insight.
Then there’s Andrew McKie, or @distantcities as he is known in the cybersphere. Andrew and I were at Glasgow University together, thrown together as comrade debaters for The Distributists, a political society there. It was rather apt for me, a Jesuit educated boy, given that the economic ideology of Distributism was based on Catholicism. This debating society, based on the Westminster model, is responsible for many movers and shakers, being as it is the most successful debating institution in the world.
Andrew and I were good pals. He was an effortless eccentric while those around him flapped and flailed as they experimented with their self-expression. He glided gracefully with his singular sense of style. No-one smoked untipped fags like McKie; no-one consumed cognac like McKie; no-one riffed a riposte like McKie. He was technicolor in a world of shades of grey. He graduated in Philosophy and then promptly disappeared. Some years later I heard he was at The Daily Telegraph. It was the late nineties and we hadn’t spoken in a decade. Andrew was deputy comment editor (once writing a leader on the importance of soup) and, for 10 years, its obituaries editor. I was glad to hear he was doing well. I emailed him. We exchanged a few missives then life got in the way. We never managed that cuppa or the lunch we promised ourselves.
And a year ago he pops up on Twitter. It’s more than three decades since we met. For all the time we spent in transit from teenage into the adversity of adulthood I never knew of his passion for cooking.
I learnt from a random tweet he fired out. ‘@misterhsk Whereas, here I am today, having cooked nothing more dangerous than a loaf & pasta amatriciana. And quite dangerous tapenade…’
Tapenade that blends olives and danger; there is no more succinct a summary of the spirit of Andrew. When I was young and thrusting upward I failed to always appreciate the jewels bestowed around me, the brilliant people hidden in plain sight. Andrew is one of those. I’ll be popping down to Cambridge to spend a weekend cooking, drinking, laughing, debating and reminiscing with a man I haven’t seen since I was 20 years old. There’s something to be said about bonds forged in the white heat of those most impressionable of ages. And while our cities might be distant it feels like our souls remained close.
Dangerous Distributist Tapenade
250g Wrinkled black olives, greasy, stoned
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tbs salted capers
2 to 3 fresh basil leaves
1 mild chilli
1 tsp fresh mixed herbs
3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
Simply combine all the ingredients, save for the olive oil, in a blender. Then just blitz and blend whilst drizzling a steady stream of the oil.
Like this? Check out Hardeep’s recipe for Hungarian garlic sauce.