For my son, who has in the past proclaimed that his epitaph should read: “He didn’t eat fish paste”, it was probably too much to expect that he would like anything with anchovies in it. So my plan to cook pasta with my version of a puttanesca sauce for my sons last night had to be scuppered at the last minute, which is luckily quite do-able when one does a pasta sauce which requires little cooking. Well, the one son who does eat anchovies did not last night come over for dinner: he had other plans, sounded as if he has started seeing a mysterious new girl, whom I will eventually meet at our Wednesday dinners if she is, as they say, a keeper..
The other son, he of “no- anchovies- please- ma”, or capers it turns out, came over with his girlfriend last night. I had planned to make a tomato based sauce with olives, anchovies and capers for penne, and ended up making a tomato based sauce with courgettes and olives and chilli and garlic, which was equally delicious, since the courgette wheels were fried off first with garlic and olive oil, the caramelisation adding a sweet dimension to the sauce.
I could not resist though the idea that anchovies would have added yet another depth of taste, as they do, but my son could not be convinced to try it so I, just before serving, heated some salty pungent little preserved fish fillets with their filigree of tiny bones until melted with some olive oil and served it alongside, in little condiment bowls, the chopped fresh red chillies and garlic in olive oil that my chilli loving son, insisted in preparing, standing alongside me in my galley style kitchen, while his girlfriend bravely nibbled on a tiny chunk of fresh baby bulb garlic which I recently saw in Woolworths and have been using extensively in a couple of dishes lately…
Earlier on, when they arrived, we had with a first glass of wine, chunks of the freshest basil pesto bread from my favourite baker, theirs with butter slathered on and mine drizzled with Morgenster olive oil with its particular peppery bite at the back of my throat, standing at the counter talking and getting the pasta water on the go and the improvised sauce simmering gently.
The ambience was perfect for a pleasant evening: candles lit, music playing, me in my element, cooking and singing along with some crooney songs from the fifties, when I realised that the pair were having a bit of a er, rumble: and then they left to go and fetch something from their cottage, and I was sure that they were not coming back. As the non-interfering mother and potential mother-in-law which I hope to be, I did not say anything, but fervently hoped that they would be able to talk though whatever was clearly causing tension…. So by the time they thankfully did return, seeming fine, the sauce had reduced enough, I had spoken to my lover whose reassuring voice helped soothe my motherly concern for my child, and ten minutes later the pasta was drained and dressed and steaming in white bowls, and the green salad with rocket and a selection of baby greens with a good dressing on the table, alongside melted anchovies (almost like anchoaide) and the colourful bowl of shiny red chillies and white garlic.
I ended up being the only one to drizzle the anchovy oil over my meal, savouring the salty bite and the unmistaken tang thereof as it married wonderfully with the other ingredients in my mouth..
And this morning, finding it in my fridge, standing up at the kitchen counter, I scooped up the leftover anchovy oil with leftover basil bread tore off the loaf in rather greedy abandon, and had a completely new variation of the far more sedate and traditional anchovy toast….delicious.
But strictly I think, for those of us who keep a bottle of those in the fridge door to at a whim, fish(pun intended) out a tiny fillet with one’s fingers(which can be tricky) to have just on it’s own to satisfy a curious craving for what has to be an acquired, very adult taste sensation.