Learning the art of listening while you cook.

Elbrich Fennema | July 2008 issue

When we focus on silence, we focus on sound. Becoming silent is a gradual process. When we switch off louder elements, we hear things that are normally drowned out. This applies to life in general, and definitely to the kitchen and eating around the table. If you turn off the radio, TV or music while you’re cooking, your pans will have a lot to say. They gurgle, hiss or bubble, letting you know how hot, well-cooked, crispy or puffed the food in them is. You hear the sounds you make yourself as you cut, chip or grate. The next step is to hear sounds you never heard before or previously found unintelligible.
Couscous is one such defiantly silent recipe. Bring three cups (690 grams) of water to a boil and wait until you hear it seething. Throw two cups (460 grams) of couscous into a dish. Pour the water in a swirl over the couscous. As the couscous swells in silence, finely chop two spring onions, a handful of mint and a couple slivers of lemon rind. Place in a small bowl and clatter as you mix in a tablespoon (15 grams) of olive oil, a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. In the silence that follows, try to hear the couscous swell. Ten minutes or so later, when it’s done, stir in the dressing. Couscous is tasty served warm, lukewarm or cold. But don’t wait too long if you want to eat in silence, or your stomach will start growling in protest.

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