A Humor Times exclusive! Bob Dylan shares his recipe for Quarantine Couscous.
“I contain multitudes” — Bob Dylan
A storm sits on the horizon’s edge. A violent tempest. The kind of storm they sing about in sea shanties, in mournful songs, cowboy songs, Appalachian ballads, in songs that remind you that you can’t go back or that you’ve been back and back was never there in the first place; you made it up. You’re back now. It’s been brewing for months, this storm. Patiently waiting for the bells to ring, for the trumpets to blare, for the lockdown to lift. The times changed; the wind is blowing questions.
If I was to go back to the dawning of it all, I don’t know where I’d begin or where I would end. I wanted to create something that, in its own way, told a story. This storm — this story — is my creation. But soon it won’t belong to me. Storms go out, Storms come in. In some ways there is no difference. I’ve harnessed this storm and I hope what I’ve done will be worthwhile and purposeful. I wanted to make a couscous unlike any ever eaten; a couscous immemorial, fundamental, and true.
I think it was a day or two after the quarantine began. And somebody – somebody I’d never seen before – handed me a recipe book. That book changed my life right then and there. Transported me to a dream world. Like somebody laid hands on me. I dreamed I was in a boxcar, rambling from Oklahoma to Baton Rouge, up to Bangor and back again. I dreamed I was on the Lusitania throwing silver dish-ware into the Atlantic. The dream was powerful and electrifying and had a commanding presence. Some sort of mercurial and mechanical distribution of elemental purpose.
But I can’t remember why I was in that dream or what part I was supposed to play. Sometimes the Lady of the Lake hands Excalibur to paupers.
I had tried couscous before, but I was left unsatisfied, like taking a trip out to Coney Island to see the sideshow only to be shown the bearded man, the siamese cat, and the world’s longest 300-page book. Now it was all there in front of me. This wasn’t a pot luck. This was a pot destiny. It should be understood that I own this melody. An atavistic, serendipitous plunge into a burning ball pit of Maghrebi grains, a roving gamble.
I internalized this couscous. I opened my eyes to close them and closed them to open them. You may call it witchcraft or sorcery or a warlock’s spell, but I call it making couscous so fluffy that Odysseus’s would turn his back on his queen, turn his back on his kingdom, just to rest his head on those durum wheat semolina pearls. Just to sleep a sleep that would redden the cheeks of Hypnos.
It’s a powerful energy. The kind of energy that wakes you up at 3am to write the great American novel, churning out reams of prose until the wheels fall off and burn and the world explodes. The kind of energy that drops you off at the mouth of Hades, makes you toss a steak over the fence for Cerberus, hop the fence yourself, grab that hellhound by one of its ears and whisper, “I’m coming out with whoever wants to come with me.”
It walks you up to St. Peter’s gated community and right as all the mysteries of the universe are set before you on a plate of stardust and zodiacal clouds, it tugs you back from your mind’s breaking point and rests you gently on a beanbag of understanding.
You may be wondering if you will ever feel ready to dine from this troth of enlightenment. When you’re ready, my couscous will present itself to you and no sooner. Prepare yourself if you want to ride this ride, because these feather-light pellets of softness will hit you like a bolt of downy thunder, tearing at your sense of immortality like you’re locked in a pillow fight with the Gods of Olympia.
You might think you can dive headfirst into this heather-almond pile of globular foliage, but this thrill ride is not for the faint of heart. My couscous places demands on you, grabs you by the back of your head and dunks you into its flavor until you tell it all it wants to know.
You don’t need any basil, or any parsley, or any of that garbanzo highbrow, lowbrow, chasing illusion, chasing death, chasing men overboard affectations. My couscous is a lone wolf, independent, a shadowy figure that stalks you in the night. If you sense my couscous, it’s already too late.
This is not for the faint of heart. Soak some vinegar in a sponge and put it to your lips. Pay your respects at the White Pilgrim’s obelisk. You should not go this journey alone. Even with a steely crew of roughnecks you’re still just as likely to find yourself adrift at sea, clinging to a coffin, with the need to tell your story as the only buttress propping up your will to live, thinking of Starbuck, thinking about his warning, “Let bygones be bygones.”
The recipe is as follows:
STEP ONE: In a small saucepan, bring 1/3 cup of water to a boil. Stir in 3 tablespoons of couscous, season with salt.
STEP TWO: Remove from heat; cover, and let stand until water has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Before serving, fluff with a fork and recite, “Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.”