REGULAR WEEKEND READERS will be familiar with our friends at The Mire, who bring you the week’s news… skewed… every Saturday.
This week, to mark the passing of the Anglo Tapes, we bring you this extract from Mire author Donal Conaty’s satirical novel, The Eighty-Five Billion Euro Man.
It concerns the fictional Dermot Mulhearn, top civil servant wheeler dealer who “accepts tributes from bankers as though he were Don Corleone in The Godfather”.
The hallway was packed with bankers bearing gifts for Dermot. One by one they were granted an audience with him while the Minister for Finance took their coats and brought them drinks. They ignored Mr Lenihan as they sought to secure their futures by making a good impression on Dermot. Before leaving they each dropped to their knees and kissed the ring on his finger.
The gifts began arriving as soon as President McAleese had signed the Credit Institutions Bill into law. One bank even sent a Michelin-starred celebrity chef to cook a special dish for Dermot. Apparently the celebrity chef was almost as notorious as the bankers who sent him. ‘His restaurants close almost as soon as he opens them,’ Liam explained. ‘He’s a great chef but he can’t run a business.’
To great excitement and considerable confusion, the chef announced that he was going to prepare an ortolan for Dermot’s delectation.
‘What’s an ortolan?’ the Minister for Finance asked and the chef fixed him with a withering stare.
‘An ortolan,’ he said, addressing Dermot and not the Minister, ‘is the ultimate culinary delight. It is illegal in several countries but is happily still available to the elite of Ireland. He spoke with a dramatic flourish as though addressing a royal court.
‘Get to the point,’ said Dermot. ‘What is a bloody ortolan?’ The chef cleared his throat. ‘An ortolan is a beautiful songbird,’ he said. ‘It is tiny and delightful, but the only way to prepare it is by torturing it in the most cruel way imaginable. Some consider it a sin against God and humanity.’
‘Sounds great,’ said Dermot. ‘Let’s get started. I’m half starved.’
The Minister for Finance even ran his fingers through his truffle-oiled tresses in wonder
Excitement spread through Government Buildings as the word went round that one of the most frowned upon acts of the culinary arts was about to be performed on the premises. Within minutes the entire Cabinet was in the office. They were very taken with the celebrity chef in his brilliant whites. The Minister for Finance even ran his fingers through his truffle-oiled tresses in wonder, before being firmly led away by an aide.
As he prepared to roast the beautiful bunting, the chef explained how he had first captured it alive before poking out its tiny eyes. The pitiful creature was then force fed until it was four times its natural size. Before our very eyes the chef then drowned the helpless bird in Armagnac.
Then he plucked it and roasted it. I couldn’t help noticing that the Minister for Education and Skills, Mary Coughlan, was transfixed by the whole procedure as she dug her fingers deep into the flesh of my arm. ‘I fucking love ortolans,’ she whispered breathily, ‘whatever the fuck they are.’
The chef placed a large napkin over Dermot’s head. ‘This will help you to savour the aroma,’ he said, ‘and also to hide your shame at what you are about to do. Now put the ortolan in your mouth with only its beak sticking out, and bite.’
Dermot was all about the decadence
Dermot did as he was told and the beak fell to the floor at his feet. ‘As you chew the ortolan,’ the chef explained, ‘you will feel its delicate bones cutting your gums. This allows you to savour the absolute decadence of what you have done to this beautiful bird. You are enjoying the same meal that President Mitterrand of France ate on his deathbed.’
Dermot was all about the decadence. His own blood and the blood and guts of the ortolan dribbled down his strong chin. ‘It wasn’t the ortolan that killed him, was it?’ Dermot joked. ‘Seriously, have you any more of them?’
‘I have two more,’ the chef said.
‘Good stuff,’ said Dermot. ‘I’ll have one and my friend here from the IMF will have the other.’
A murmur of discontent went around the room. ‘What’s wrong with you lot?’ Dermot asked the collected Ministers and the Taoiseach. ‘Have ye no work to do?’
‘We want ortolans,’ they said in chorus.
‘There’s none left. Did you not hear the man?’ Dermot attempted to stare them down. For a shocking moment it seemed as though they might actually rebel against Dermot’s authority.
At that moment Mary Coughlan intervened. ‘Somebody get some fucking sparrows,’ she shouted. ‘Now!’