They lived in the old factory for almost fifteen years before they finally cracked it.
‘I think that’s it,’ said Ed.
Barry wasn’t so sure.
They sat and regarded what could possibly, hopefully, be the greatest achievement mankind would make this century.
A decade and a half of experimentation. Stopping the boil at various points, carefully logging the result. Rolling the semolina by hand, then alternating with an ancient Berber tool. Everything charted and added to the equations.
Better with or without sultanas? Some had suggested that it was impossible to be objective on such matters. Ed and Barry mercilessly mocked those people beneath the harsh Noble Gas strip lighting of the old factory. There is a discreet data equivalent to every value and event in the universe, they’d say – an empirical result!
Larger or smaller, warmer or cooler. Better or worse.
Ed stirred the bowl. Could it be?
The fluff was perfect. Each grain, ideally spaced from its neighbours, yet snug like a newborn baby in swaddling.
Barry shook with excitement as he recorded the precise ratio of boiling water to granule mass.
They had attained the minimum flour surface area only weeks ago. (And partied like teenagers thereafter.) Could they have completed the entire puzzle so soon after that tremendous milestone?
The most elusive factor had always been the water : solid ratio. That was where the magic happened.
Having isolated the variables that controlled the quality of granular plumpness, they had determined that the time the fragments spent immersed and the temperature gradient vector of the water could vary by as little as one thousandth of a percent and still impact on the texture.
God is in the details.
The red marker and steel ruler were, together, applied to the vast creamy white sheet the boys had stapled to the gas works wall. As predicted in their groundbreaking paper: Fractal Distance and its Application to Non-Linear Absorption Particles, the Herring coefficient had been approaching Unity as their trials progressed.
The hairs stood up on both their necks.
Ed took the first spoonful, eased it past his lips, and let the gorgeous mound melt in his moist mouth.
His eyes widened.
Barry’s face was a question mark, the excited punctuation of a man of science on the brink of an enormously important discovery.
Ed nodded. Twitched.
No more than a millimetre. But Barry knew.
He seized at the second spoon, perfectly weighted in Dutch steel, just as specified in Heinzi’s theory – presented in Culinary Utensils and their Effect on The Human Taste Experience.
Saliva soaked into the succulent spadefuls in both their mouths.
Tom entered the room. He’d just woken up with a bitter vodka hangover.
Groggily he watched the ecstasy carve itself on his colleagues’ faces.
His soul flushed with acidic envy.
It should have been him.
In the millennia in which the food stuff had existed, no one had achieved such a thing.
The perfect couscous.
They could rest.
But then Tom fucked it all up by emptying in a whole packet of sultanas.