I can barely stand to watch these episodes because I’m so visibly nervous, it makes me cringe. For me, getting to meet Robyn Hitchcock was on par with meeting David Bowie because I got into his music at an age when our favorite musical artists seemed inaccessible to us mere mortals. Robyn was doing a lot of touring until the pandemic in 2020, so I have caught quite a few of his shows over recent years. During COVID lockdown, he’s been doing weekly online concerts (Live from Sweet Home Quarantine) with his partner Emma Swift, who sings like an angel.
Robyn’s music has been a staple in my listening diet since I first came across him in the 1980s. His musical journey actually started in the ’70s with The Soft Boys, and he has remained active, releasing numerous solo albums as well as releases with his band The Egyptians and most recently The Venus 3. The discography below is just the tip of the iceberg for this prolific artist. He’s best known for his psychedelic style and surreal lyrics, but I find that my favorite Hitchcock songs are hauntingly beautiful. He’s a legend in my book, so I was particularly thrilled to get to have the opportunity to chat with him… about food of all things!
About the interview
I handed Robyn my card a few weeks earlier at SXSW in Austin and he was very gracious about agreeing to an interview. The lounge in the back of TTs made a rather civilized location (until soundcheck kicked into gear).
James Holland, Eric Holland
Take a deep breath and clear your cooking area. Chose what kind of music or silence you want to listen to. Brian Eno’s Music For Fungus would be great. Range up your ingredients so you can access them when the moment comes and not be rummaging through the cupboard in a shower of weevils while your kitchen ignites. My Food Pie features:
- Olive Oil
- a bay leaf or two
- vegetable stock/yeast extract
- parmesan cheese
- celery (very optional)
- peas (if you got time)
- fresh button mushrooms (optional)
- broccoli and beyond.
- Wash everything unless you like guest bugs in your pie.
If you can enjoy turnips, parsnips and swedes, that trio of low-life root vegetables, then add them to the mix.
If you are a fishaterian, include tuna and anchovies.
Drop the needle on your LP of choice, take another deep breath and start.
Take a bulb of fresh garlic and chop three or four cloves from it, finely. Mix those choppings in with one onion that you slice into atoms.
Heat up a saucepan with a little olive oil in it and tip in the garlic and onions.
Wash some lentils and keep them brooding nearby. Similarly wash a few potatoes (all quantities depend on how many you’re cooking for, dude) and quarter them to speed their boiling, which is what you do to them next. They are headed for mashville.
After initial heat, let the garlic and onions soften in the olive oil. Try not to burn them savagely.
Add the bay leaf, a teaspoon of Marmite or other yeast extract, and heat up some vegetable stock. Now is the time for anchovies. Then add the vegetable parade of your taste: mushrooms, tomato, eggplant and so on, all chopped but not beyond recognition. Food Pie works best if the ingredients can still be distinguished when it’s served up, rather than being cooked into an unrecognizeable slop. Your digestive system does that for you later.
On another hob, cook the lentils.
Flip the disc. Side 2 of Music For Fungus is just dandy. If you are adding tuna, open the tin now and keep it away from the cat. Wave some celery at the cat to confuse it, and then give it a little tuna on a fork in another room if you feel guilty about confusing it. Add the rest to the lentils
Prod the potatoes with a fork – pretend they are the souls of the damned, and you are God. Or the Devil. Whoever it is that wields the fork, anyhow. You get the same justice from both of them, which is why so many subscribers are moving to Buddha. Why should people suffer more than they have already? And why should potatoes be overcooked? Once they are yielding to the soft plunge of your fork, drain away the water (it makes good stock for soup or gravy) and leave the potatoes off the boil (i.e, don’t put the saucepan back on the hot hob).
Turn on the oven, by whatever means necessary. Not as hot as the Devil might like it.
By now you should have a brew of vegetables crackling in an aromatic frenzy before you. If you can multi-task, add butter or milk to the cooling potatoes and mash them. It is possible to out-source some of the vegetables – peas, or broccoli, for example – and boil them at the last minute in another pan, so you can serve them outside of the Pie.
Now tip the pans of vegetables, lentils, and possibly fish into a sarcophagus-shaped dish known to the 20th century as a casserole. Level them out and pave them over with mashed potato. Grate parmesan over the potato, and insert the casserole into the Devil-lite oven.
By now side 2 is over, and you will need silence to concentrate on serving up the pie with ketchup, horseradish, mustard and other agents. Bake the pie till the wind starts howling and the demons thrash against the oven door; wait above all for the moon to swim with her wan face against the cobwebbed window. And check that the cheese is melting nicely into the browning potato before you serve the pie. Keep plenty of water and juice on hand: this is a savoury dish.
Famous Food Pie lovers: Marie Curie, Joey Ramone, Rod Steiger, Florence Nightingale, Bryan Ferry
Don’t Knows: Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare, Emperor Charlemagne, Babe Ruth, Eleanor Roosevelt
Not For Us: Sting, The Montgolfier Brothers, Lowell George, Tippi Hedren, Murray the K
“He that hath no stomach for food pye, let him eat hessian” – Samuel Pepys