This weekend a brilliant new exhibition opened at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London — Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970–1990. I’ve written before about the challenges of teaching English literature undergraduates about postmodernism. Ask them what it is and they’re more likely to say what it isn’t. The V and A’s entrancing exhibition makes it all clear.
The postmodern architect Robert Venturi, designer of the Sainsbury wing at London’s National Gallery, cleverly captured his concept of postmodernism, describing it as ‘both, and’ rather than boring old ‘either, or’. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a notion to glory in. Instead of choosing one or the other, you combine both.
The perfect postmodern edible version of ‘both, and’ has to be black olive and chocolate truffles. I’ve just been invited by Olives from Spain to watch the Spanish chef Omar Allibhoy cook tapas dishes with olives. Omar trained with Ferran Adria at elBulli, so is most definitely a ‘both, and’ kind of cook. I particularly loved his flash fried sea bass with sherry, garlic, sweet red peppers, black olives and caper berries. But the postmodern stars of the evening were his black olive and chocolate truffles. Building on the idea that salt enhances caramel, he figured that the salty flavour of olives could only make chocolate better. Here is his recipe, which I found made around 35 truffles:
BLACK OLIVE CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES
- 150g pitted black olives
- 150g double cream
- 220g best quality chocolate — 70% cocoa solids
- 40 grams butter, cut into small pieces
- Finely grated zest of one orange
- Cocoa powder for dusting
Process the drained black olives to a rough paste. Heat the double cream over a low heat and just before it reaches boiling point, remove from the heat. Break up the chocolate and add to the cream. When the chocolate has melted, add the black olives, butter and zest and stir to combine thoroughly. Place the bowl in the fridge for around 6 or 7 hours. When the mixture is firm, scoop out small quantities with a dessert spoon and roll in your hands to make truffles. Roll the truffles in a bowl of cocoa powder.
The finished truffles are creamy, delicately salty and rather delicious. But in case you’re thinking that a black olive chocolate truffle is a step too far — and that’s certainly the view of my children who refused point-blank to try them — think of them this way. The olives not only make the truffles cheaper to make, they also make them healthier to eat. Now if that isn’t the perfect embodiment of ‘both, and’, I don’t know what is. And if the French chocolatier-patissier Pierre Herme can make macarons flavoured with foie gras as well as a grapefruit and wasabi version, how can anyone recoil in panic from olives and chocolate?