The Good Life – Recipe and Retraction

Firstly, part of my gradual maturing process as an individual is learning how to admit when I’m wrong, so here it goes…

In a column a couple of weeks ago, I took a pretty sniffy attitude towards those people who have a keen appreciation for high quality wines. Quoting the cheeky and sardonic American writer Nick Tosches, I dismissed these people as “pseudo-connoisseurs.” I then brazenly went on to more or less claim that there is little real difference between a bottle of cheap, homemade wine and the stuff that regularly gets oooohed and aaaahed over at wine tastings and fine restaurants.

Well, as a reader quite rightly pointed out, it is a bit illogical to assert that high quality ingredients make all the difference in other areas of food enjoyment, but to deny their validity in the making of wine. Obviously, creating a fine bottle of wine is an act of craftsmanship requiring vast technical experience and artistic intuition. That a ten dollar bottle of Yellowtail tastes every bit as good to me as Chateau Neuf du Pape is a just reflection of my lack of knowledge in this area. My husband’s enjoyment for the most headache-inducing modern jazz I’ve ever heard is completely lost on me, but I’m sure he hears far more in the music than I do.

The swipe I rather clumsily took in my previous column was not meant to be directed at those people with the ability to genuinely appreciate a good bottle of Syrah or Pinot Noir, but rather at all of the self-important hoopla that is connected to the enjoyment of high calibre plonk. It’s an argument equally applicable in the areas of gourmet cuisine, art, literature, fashion, and any number of other areas. To me, a good book is one that’s fun to read; a good song is something you can dance to, cry to, or sing along with; and good food and drink is just whatever goes down well. I suppose you can take the girl out of rural Alberta, but you can’t take rural Alberta out of the girl. So, I offer an apology in admitting that some of my best friends are wine connoisseurs.

Secondly, I have had a serious thing for olives ever since my first experience with a Greek salad many years ago in Medicine Hat, Alberta. That’s why my eyes and taste buds lit up when one of my co-workers recently brought in a Mason jar filled with marinated olives for a pot-luck lunch. The following recipe renders four or five cups of the heady and delicious mixture:

2 cups brine cured Kalamata olives
2 cups brine cured green olives
1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
The juice of two or three large lemons
One thinly-sliced fennel bulb
1/4 cup finely-chopped red onion
One can of anchovy fillets
Generous quantities of fresh tarragon, basil and thyme
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
Lots of freshly ground black pepper

Chop up the anchovies and mix everything together in a large bowl, then refrigerate for two or three days (or at least overnight). Serve at room temperature with Roma tomatoes, a crispy baguette, and a plate of freshly grated Parmesan drizzled with more Balsamic vinegar, and whatever wine you truly enjoy.

Oh and for an incredibly delicious French tapenade that takes about two minutes to prepare, try blending a can of black olives with a half dozen garlic cloves, three tablespoons of capers, half a cup of extra-virgin olive oil, and freshly ground pepper to taste. Not the most attractive looking dish, perhaps, but absolutely delicious whether you use it as a spread or as a topping for pasta. Yum!