Misc //

Cooking With Don DeLillo: Moroccan-Style Beef and Couscous

Hector Ramage cooks between the signal and the noise.

For ingredients, I go to the supermarket. Immediately, I see deals: on fruit, on meat, on crackers. Buy with FlyBuys and save up to 5%. The produce surrounding me is nothing but data made immanent, data extant at the beck of some screenlit bureaucrat. There is a benevolence to these deals, a smilingness.

First, I need vegetables. I pick through carrots: gnarled ones, smooth ones. I hold them up in the fluorescence like some exultant worshipper of Priapus. I sense curious glances, and eyes averted, as a dog senses a home’s resident phantom. A woman pulls her son closer and hurries onwards. Around me, data to be winnowed or tumesced. I grab a tomato, gaze at it in awe. Where has it come from? From distant shores, from the Acheron’s far bank, in a container of burnished Teutonic steel. The fruit of the Dead. I take four.

An air of sexual ritual hangs over the way husbands and wives handle the produce, a quiet atavism, a yearning for passed carnality. With his forefinger, a man traces crosswise a packet of sliced salmon, and his wife responds, caressing an aubergine’s waterglazed flank. I am transfixed by this display, but must still find couscous, eggs, diced beef. I wrench myself onwards.

Finally, I have assembled the meal’s ingredients. On the radio a woman sings of bass, of how she is all about it. The song confers upon us shoppers the mantle of epic narrative, a mythic telos that somehow reaches far beyond the meals we hope to create in the near future.

The checkout line contracts and lengthens, tacitly peristaltic.

“Hi, how are you?” asks the young man at the counter.

“Brilliant,” I say. “I feel re-animated, re-vivified.”

He looks at me warily. Ancient narratives eddy and rear in our duologue. He is an attendant at this temple, I am an initiant. I have sought and found data, and I am leaving with it. I push a trolley of information made manifest, push it before me, apotropaically.

“Is that cash or credit?” he asks.

“Immolated and reborn. Foetal against some cosmic placenta.”

“Um—” he says.

Around us rise the bips of the serried checkouts, a fitful countdown.

“Sir, how are you paying for these items?”

A man glides past on a mobility scooter, hollowcheeked.

“I’m going to have to call security, sir.” I realise that have been narrating the scene out loud. As the young man calls for security, I say, “The young man leans down and speaks into a microphone, asking for security to checkout 3.”

Two large men move towards me, eyes small and eager. I realise that the violence they are about to enact is a consummation, a sacrificial crescendo. Here are neolithic huntsmen slaying an auroch. Here is Jack Ruby producing his revolver. People are gathered to watch: here are a million cinemagoers’ eyes as Willard kills Kurtz, finishing the story that began downriver.

How heartening to know that in the quotidian act of purchasing ingredients we can collapse history’s false partitions, can thread ourselves into the fibrillating rope of time and memory. How heartening to know that I, should I will it, can be a player in the past’s troupe.