CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Martin McGuinness was once an IRA terrorist who now is the co-first minister of a peaceful Northern Ireland. He also appears to have developed a taste for fried catfish during a turn on the Ohio River recently, and has gotten tipped to a closely guarded recipe from an aficionado who is as handy with a skillet as he is with a keyboard.
McGuinness was in Ohio recently and sampled fried catfish for the first time in a downtown Cincinnati restaurant, McCormick & Schmick's, after speaking at Xavier University. He liked the catfish. Cincinnati Post managing editor Mark Neikirk now has a recipe that calls for a bag of $1.59 Andy's Fish Breading en route to the Northern Irish leader.
Neikirk thinks the dwellers of the British Islands have always been askew on their fish and chips:
"The British Empire, famous though it may be for frying fish, never got the batter so right. Put away the vinegar. This fish doesn't need its flavor masked."
Andy's comes from St. Louis on the Mississippi River, a waterway that may outrank Cincinnati's mighty Ohio River as the mother lode of catfish. Neikirk told me his fish story last week, and said he's been on a quest for years to make the world's best fried catfish. He says Andy's is the one ingredient that cannot be topped. He said Cincinnati area Democratic activist Mark Guilfoyle told him about McGuinness' interest in fried catfish. The newspaperman passed along his Andy's tip to Guilfoyle, who became close to the Irish Catholic cause years ago as a student at George Washington University. Guilfoyle then got the word to the Irish leader.
Neikirk shared his yarn with me last Thursday, which has now be printed as a column. It appears in today's Cincinnati Post. When we spoke on last week, he said he still didn't know for sure yet if McGuinness had gotten any Andy's on his fish yet. Guess here is probably not. Whenever it happens, the news will be spread all over the British tabs.
Neikirk dreams that McGuinness and Ian Paisley, the Protestant co-leader of Northern Ireland, might make a permanent peace if they dined on a catfish dinner using his now not-so secret recipe.