Monday, July 21, 2008

Couscous as metaphor(s)

I made a delicious couscous salad for dinner tonight, with chicken and cucumbers in it, and dried cranberries, and toasted almonds, and an orangey dressing with a hint of dijon. And it was splendid, but was also one of those things that somehow requires every single piece of your kitchen equipment, way more than you anticipated. A whisk, a huge chef's knife, a skillet for toasting the almonds, a plethora of parings and onion skins for the compost bin--right now I'm keeping those in a plastic bag in the freezer, so that I don't develop a fruit-fly situation, but it is odd to have a big clunky bag of frosty garbage in there. The orange-juice blend for the couscous boiled over on the stove, and that is basically like making sugar tar. And then there is the couscous itself, so yummy, but it exists basically to just be the slightly sticky miniscule pasta granules that disperse and multiply so that they are somehow adhered to every surface of sink and countertop and linoleum. My kitchen looks and feels like that right now, scattered couscous writ large.

I went to a Moroccan restaurant with a group of friends once, where we sat on cushions on the floor and the waiter poured warm fragrant water over our hands for washing, because we were going to eat with them. Our hands. And then we did, but the meal included a huge dish of couscous, and it was delicious but YOW SO HOT when you are sticking your fingers in there, oh my gosh...and then I was wearing a rather deeply cut blouse, while trying to fling clods of burning hot couscous into my mouth with my bare burnt hands, and man. Those couscous molecules really do get everywhere. You haven't lived until you have had a bra full of couscous. Well, probably you have lived, but nowhere near as interesting a life, I am here to tell you.

The other thing I am thinking of now, avoiding the silty couscoused sinkful of dishes, is my dad. Again. Here are two of his flaws, a convenient pair: he never installed a garbage disposal in their kitchen, and he could never scrape a plate worth a damn. My regular chore, when Sis and I were staying with Dad, was to do the dishes each night. (Sis fed the young beef steers out in the barn, big scoops of what I guess was Calf Chow; who had the more taxing task is debatable.) I will never forget, never be able to forget, putting my hand down into the greasy, cooling dishwater, feeling around for that last fork among the floating kernels of corn and pasta shells collecting near the drain trap. Shudder. When I bought my house, my absolute prize possession herein was the dishwasher, the first such appliance I ever owned. It remains just about the best magic act ever; you put in stinky, crusty dishes, and then clean shiny lemon-smelling dishes come out, still hot to the touch! Hot with cleanliness.

Strangely, I still don't have a garbage disposal myself. Or a sullen, grimacing eighth grader to scrub the stockpot and fish around, wincing, in the drain. Double damn.


Mrs. Mr. Sis said...

There was always at least one or two pieces of gristle from a prior meal amidst the corn and pasta. Oh, and a bright colored plastic ring from the top of a gallon milk jug. How the hell did those get in there? It's not like Dad ever recycled anything. Ever. He'd be laughing if he heard us sharing these stories with the Internets.

chicklegirl said...

My dad made me do the dishes, too. I had to rewash if they weren't up to spec.

And I've always owned a dishwasher since leaving home. Even in college.

Holly said...

According to a fabulous documentary I saw yesterday on the dishwasher (invented by an American, by the way), there are actually cultural trends in how dishes are washed -- how much water, how much rinsing, how much soap (or bubbles), etc. And what it all comes down to? That handy machine does it better, and more efficiently. Buy that dishwasher! Buy that disposal! Save the environment! Go for it!