By Medicine Hat News Opinion on June 10, 2021.
The last few weeks have not been good news in terms of hate crime. Both new and historical acts of hate keep coming to light. So, in this week’s column I am going to at least try to give a little hope, with a perspective I have learned from the simple act of cooking the Moroccan pasta known as cous-cous.
Like any other pasta recipe, one would assume you boil water then add cous-cous to expand into a base, into which you mix sauce or vegetables. Let’s imagine that cous-cous soaking in water is the Canada of yore that racists seem enamored with.
Canada was “just fine” when it was soaked in white culture and foreign ingredients were blended in only in limited numbers. Things were well and good when the sauce “knew its place” in a recipe. But something wonderful happens when cous-cous is prepared as it should be: when it is soaked in a flavorous mixture instead.
Lemon cous-cous is an extremely simple dish of cous-cous soaked in a little bit of chicken broth, minced garlic, lemon skin (zest), lemon juice, Italian parsley, extra virgin olive oil and salt. It is also easy to make and only takes 10 minutes from start to finish. It smells and tastes great on its own, because the cous-cous is infused with flavour. One can use regular parsley, but the broader-leafed Italian parsley is the herb of choice across the Middle East, where the great cous-cous recipes are from. Finely chopped Italian parsley has a pungent smell, rich and leafy, and it makes any food it is mixed into so much tastier. The dark green bits of parsley are also a nice contrast with the bright yellow cous-cous, looking great in a bowl or on a plate beside other foods.
The garlic is heated in a pan with hot olive oil for only 20 seconds. It is amazing how mere seconds in medium heat brings out the perfect flavour from a tiny bit of garlic. You don’t even have to “add” garlic to recipes in many cases to benefit from its flavor. Cutting a chunk of garlic in half and merely rubbing it on plain bread straight out of a toaster will make a surprisingly flavorful piece of garlic toast.
Another benefit of steeping cous-cous is that you begin to rediscover the natural flavour of ingredients in balance, as if recovering from the intense impact of processed foods high in sugar, fat and salt. Natural flavours mix and compliment, and do not make your taste buds insensitive. Though connoisseurs often describe subtle flavors in rather smug and condescending ways, it is true that well made natural food can be like a bouquet: hints of fragrance and complex colors.
Canada is, or at least always should have been, the cous-cous steeped in the rich dreams of our citizens. Now more than ever it is becoming truly delectable as we begin to alter the recipe towards something much better, something steeped in the ingredients that were lacking in the past. It is nothing to be feared. This new national flavour was always there, we are just now allowing more people into the kitchen. Rather than fearing it, we need only think of the rich feast awaiting us.
Dr. Daniel Schnee is an anthropologist and internationally recognized graphic score composer