The Devil’s stool

Oil has really fucked us.

We’re oil’s filthy whore, trussed up, gagging, covered in muck, pleading for more through lifeless eyes. We’ve killed millions in wars over it, we’ve made countless species extinct searching for it and we’ve even managed to make air itself unbreathable because of it. It’s a special race that can make oxygen hurt.

But oil’s had its uses. Imagine how tricky drinking liquid would be without straws? Those bags for life you get in Tesco that you use once, because who carries round a fucking plastic bag for life? Oil makes those. Without oil I wouldn’t be able to get on flights away from this benighted shithole to drive stolen tuk-tuks into flocks of llamas in places like Mongolia because that’s what I like to do.

And lest we forget, without the concept of oil there would be no olive oil. And without olive oil there would be…


Right, fuck off right now, every and any one of you if your immediate thought there was ‘’but olives are lovely”. With that kind of mindset you’re as much use as Schumacher’s cock.

Let’s get one thing straight: olives are a fucking disgrace.

If you took a cellar of salt, burnt it in out-of-date butter in a rusted frying pan, added boot polish, pureed conkers and, why not, a fucking mushroom, then rolled it around a pebble you’d smuggled through security up your arse up for some reason and put it in an ashtray on a bar for men with piss on their fingers to fondle, you’d have a delicacy to make an olive taste like, well, like a fucking olive by comparison. You try thinking up similes when all you can see in your mind’s eye is your face staring back at you in the toilet water.

Olives crop up everywhere. You can get a pizza from some off-Broadway kind of a place, as in without the clinical taste-the-gleaming-machinery efficiency of a Domino’s or Papa John’s, and no matter what you ordered there they are, staring at you black as night. And if you’ve ordered this wretched disc in a restaurant and make any attempt to claim you need your food to come without the Devil’s stool bullet-dumped all over it, you’re looked at with both pity and accusation like Kate and Gerry on an anniversary.

I recently ordered a smoked fish salad because I’m the kind of man who enjoys salad and is also very comfortable in his sexuality. And obviously the chef’s found three olives rolling around behind the bins and thought “this bloke’s salad is the best place for these”.

As I saw these halves of olive in my salad I did what I’ve done so, so many times before: I thought “Well everyone else says they’re lovely, how bad can they really be?” The answer is: bad enough to make lettuce taste like rape. The crop, I mean. Oh so quick to judge.

Because here’s the thing with olives: there’s no food on our bountiful globe it’s more socially unacceptable to dislike. If you reveal your awful secret, that you think olives are the culinary equal of ground-up dragonfly and a bag of coupling nuts, expect derision usually reserved for Flat Earthers and fans of that new sitcom starring Martin Clunes as a driving instructor.

I’m simply wrong about olives. I can’t appreciate the subtle saltiness of the silky outer layer, the bitter but moreish inner pulp and the unexpected playfulness of its heart of stone. I could be a food critic with shit like that eh? Can you guess what my first Observer Food Monthly article would be about?

Best of all I’m accused of launching class warfare. I have a predictable disdain for middle-class things and there’s nothing more middle class than an olive. By picking on olives I’m actually admitting to uncertainty of my place in society, my wish to be one of the workers when every piece of evidence puts me firmly in the Waitrose hummus and mascarpone wrap bracket. I should understand that food is classless and by embracing olives I’d be neither admitting I’m considering standing for MP for South Thanet nor betraying Billy Bragg.

No, seriously, they taste like feet.

I can think of no use for olives that doesn’t involve them being thrown at or by protesters in somewhere like Chad, or made into some kind of slaughterous toxin. The only truly acceptable end for an olive is olive oil, and if it turns out olives aren’t somehow used to make olive oil, when I’m Prime Minister they bloody will be. Bastard things need to earn their keep somehow.

So next time you’re moved to sign a petition against Esso exploring the possibility of polar bear kidney as an abundant natural source of fuel, remember what they’ve done for us. Without Esso and their contemporaries, we’d be without the expertise to extract oil from the foul fruit of olea europaea and before you know it you’d be finding black and green death marbles in your banana split, your gasping child’s throat and in place of biscuits in every meeting room for the rest of your life.

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