Just moved into a new Parisian flat. A friend stands in the kitchen helping make dinner. “Good job, she says, you’ve found a place with the all the attributes one searches for in a city apartment: a balcony, a bathtub, a built in closet…”
I smile, and then wonder about the acoustic properties of my studio’s concrete walls: my attention is caught by the sounds of my friend’s cooking; they seem unusually amplified. Tune in: rhythmic beat created through peeling and hand grating of carrots. No hurry, meticulous and laborious. Punctuated pause as she takes a bite out of a carrot stalk: relaxed crunching. Cheap, white plastic and steel grater hitting glass bowl: resonant tones. Shucking fresh walnuts: tense, explosive cracks through squeezing metal nutcracker. Bunch of parsley shaken under running water: new counterpoint of knife’s rapid chop. Splash lemon, glug olive oil, spoon Dijon mustard, shake salt, pause… metal whisk on ceramic bowl.
Simple? Absolutely. I moved to France ten years ago and found this raw carrot salad everywhere. Was rather annoyed because I found it too banal at the time and wished for more creativity in veggie salad composition. Now however, ideas have flipped: I’ve come to crave this moment of freshness, this vegetable that satisfactorily holds an acidy vinaigrette and cuts fat. And this moment of listening reveals a specific composition: uniform bits of carrot offset by unequal parts of broken walnuts or ripped parsley. Then there’s the vinaigrette. I remember my apprehension of preparing vinaigrettes for dinners in Paris: the moment of waiting while guests gingerly tasted it before offering a “pas mal” or a quick nod, spooned more onto their salad, and I exhaled a sigh of relief.
Recreate carrot salad from sonic memory for dinner, find own rhythm. Same tools (cheap vegetable grater and metal nutcracker) and a borrowed kitchen (the party kitchen). This time people arriving in the background, this time heightened awareness of bodily movements and tapping into memory, this time feelings of excitement as I hurry to finish and start mingling.