Journey to the Land of delights


ok2 DR

Even though I never got used to French traditional food at home, I have always loved French food in general, I used to eat things like baguettes, croissants and other typical western food found in restaurants. The French are well known for their delicious and rich cuisine, and they put a high priority on the enjoyment of food.  In that sense, I must admit, I feel French.

At home, my mother has always been cooking both Western and Kabyle traditional food.

The most famous dish in the Kabyle and  North African culture is unmistakably “couscous”,  and it is becoming increasingly popular in France.

 However, there are many different types of couscous depending on the region where it comes from. Moroccans include saffron , Algerians like to add tomatoes, Tunisians   spice up theirs with  harissa and Kabyles add green beans.

 Among the other specialties from the Kabyle culture, there is also the special bread, « Aghroum” which is flat and crunchy. We can have it with “Felfel” for example (not to be confounded with “Falafel”), It is a simple dish made of cooked and crushed pepper mixed up with olive oil.

 ok3 DR/  Kabyle bread, “Aghroum”

 It is this mixture of flavour that finally made of me a real foodie[1] person.

 When, in 2009, I moved to England for 8 months, the change of environment also meant I had to forget both the dishes of my Mum and the French gastronomy.     

The thing that first caught my eye was the quantity of take away shops one could find lined up in the streets of the city where I lived. The same dishes would also be displayed in all the fast food restaurants:  “Burgers, Parmesans, Pizzas and Kebabs”.

Junk food was apparently king in this part of Britain, no wonder if the obesity rate in the North East is the highest in the country. In this region, the most popular dish is called the “Parmo” which is a shortcut for Parmesan. It’s a much loved dish made of chicken or pork « fillet » with « béchamel » sauce and a layer of cheese (strangely not parmesan), normally served with chips and a choice of salad: coleslaw or creamed cabbage.

 ok4 DR/ Chicken Parmo, also served in restaurants 

Unfortunately, I did not have many opportunities to discover good homemade British food, except for the famous Fish and Chips that I ate in Whitby, a lovely fishing port of the North East coast. Apart from their Sunday dinner and a filling breakfast, I have not experienced the richness of the British culture in terms of food…Far from sharing Jacque Chirac’s opinion who, joking five years ago with Russian leaders, said about Britons: « One cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad”. From my experience, I have noticed that unlike what is the case in France, in Britain, eating has not much to do with any form of ceremony. 

However, England  remains a multicultural society, and the multicultural aspect of this country is also reflected in the various dishes offered by the migrants who have come to settle there. The dishes of the newcomers are also part of a certain British heritage.Chicken tikka masala, for example, is so popular that it has even been proclaimed as  British national dish.

 ok DR/ Chicken tikka masala

      (Could you imagine “couscous” being recognized as a “French national dish”?)

Indeed, the best moments I had were when I was discovering new dishes from other parts of the world thanks to my friends who like me were foreigners. I had the opportunity to taste « jollof rice » from Nigeria, chicken rice and « dahl » from Pakistan, « noodles and moon cakes » from China, « tortillas de patatas », « mojete and patatas Alioli » from Spain, « Polish pickles », « Malaysian coconut chicken » and the best green tea ever made by my dearest Pakistanni pachtoune friends.…

Back in France, I was happy to find again my favourite baguette and my mother’s dishes but I also came back with a heavy heart. To my big surprise, shortly after my arrival, I already missed all the exotic flavours I had discovered during my stay in Britain.  My mind was still full of very nice memories about my eating time in England…

[1] A foodie is a person who has developed a pleasure for eating

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