70's food revival

I was on Christening duty last Sunday, godfather no less, chosen according to his dad as a reliable source of food. As usual struggling to find a present so lovely wife bailed me out suggesting Royal Mint commemorative coins; they mark the big occasions and there's always something going on so I'm sorted for the next 18 years at which point my godson can either become a collector or tear open all the pouches and, with the likely effects quantitative easing, buy a pint.

As usual I felt a duty to take along some after-party nibbles, not realising the venue was the local Masonic Hall and food was laid on. Not realising also that my oversized tub of newly marinated Nocellara's [balsamic, capers, sumac] was balanced precariously on the edge of the bottom shelf fridge I opened in haste and repented at leisure as the plastic pot tumbled, my preparations cascaded comically across the kitchen whilst the main body hit the floor and bounced back up in Matrix slo-mo like a mushroom cloud of squash balls and vinegar duly staining my suit and leaving me swathed in a lingering balsamic perfume.

Lovely wife sprang into action, a slippery floor was mopped at great speed, olives thrown in the sink, hands washed, clothes dabbed and all seemed tidied up until I opened the fridge door to find a pool of balsamic and numerous olives squashed like insects on a windscreen. Closed the fridge and decided worry later.

Following an uneventful, though aromatic [did I see a tiny amount of dressing floating in the water after I'd dipped my thumb in?] appearance in church we arrived into less a room and more a time capsule. From bright sunshine we stepped through a creaky dark wood greasy-handled swing door and into the 70's. There was no need for natural light as nicotine yellow walls refracted the pitiful output from flickering small red baize chandeliers giving all who enter the grey-green pallor of the severely hungover/comically undead. To balance this vision we luxuriated on a spongy slightly sticky dark red carpet as we queued at the mono-manned also sticky bar for flat lager on tap, smirnoff and tonic. I was tearily transported to my mis-spent church hall/school function/pub lunch/snooker hall youth lovingly re-created, when suddenly the double doors swung open and the piece de resistance; the food arrives; retro and grey.

The sandwich platters; grey white bread, grey egg, grey cheese, grey ham & beef [the only interlopers from the 90's are a couple of wraps and they are soon despatched], even the tomatoes are grey. Bathed in the nostalgia of my youth and school dinners I move on to Global Cuisine showcase bain marie; exotic potato wedges [early ‘80’s cutting edge] dusted in crispy brown  weirdness to be bound together by sweet chilli glue. Grey chicken drummers, alarmingly pale and anaemic are blotted out with generic too-red ketchup. That weird soggy microwave pizza that pre-dates the invention of crispiness. Spring rolls taste like deep-fried partly smoked cigars. Chicken pellets filled with grey chicken flavour playdoh. Finger quotes at the ready; ”sausages” and ”sausage” rolls are pure pink, playdoh again, and super pasty and soggy. I love it, I love it all. I go back again and again, savouring the approximations of taste as if my son made a dinner of plasticine and dusted it with MSG. Memories of childhood and a hundred happy parties come flooding back; this was how food used to be....we have a great time. Later I will experience toxic shock and I have to eat vegetables, oily fish and olives for the rest of the week to cleanse my body so I start with Mackerel Fennel Nocellara Spaghetti;

Put the pasta on. Open 1 can of mackerel in olive oil, use the oil to fry a sliced fennel bulb, reserving the fronds. Once soft and golden add the sardines and mash them up roughly, bubble off a small glass of white wine, chuck in a few roughly chopped Nocellara, fat raisins and the last of my elegant elongated Spanish pine nuts. Stir and simmer the sauce until the pasta is cooked, chuck some green beans or peas or broccoli in for the last minute if they are loitering in the fridge, and then microplane (ouch!) the zest of half a lemon, add the pasta to the sauce along with a little of the water to make an emulsification and then squeeze in lemon juice to taste and top with the fennel fronds and few turns of black pepper. Mackerelicious and works just as well with sardines, silts even anchovies or tuna at a push.


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Italian, Olives, Recipes, Lifestyle