Monday, November 17, 2008
I wake up every morning in my bedroom, where I have my orange painted closet, my teenage books, my grandparents’ old wireless radio and some dried roses still stapled over my desk; and I realize that I am home. It feels good. It feels really good.
Some furniture has been added around the house, old neighbors moved out and new ones moved in, more cats came to the nearby printing works and the lemon tree has finally started to bless us, but I still drink my milk in the same mug and still love taking naps in my parents’ bed; my mother still do her daily crosswords before falling asleep and we still have our mint tea with a big plate of M’ssemen and honey later during the day. It feels good. It feels really good to be back, to have some routines back, to see my daughter running in the house where I have so much found memories, and to hear her laughing out loud at the sight of our turtles.
I wake up every morning to a spring day and goes to bed to a fall night.
My parents live in the west side of the country. A coastal city called Oran, once known for its lions, hence the name given to the city to commemorate the last two lions that used to reign over the nearby forest. Old, sometimes crumbling, often neglected, buildings, statues and forts still stand proud and tall all over the city, reminiscent of the Spanish and French eras.
With a glass of strong coffee or mint tea sitting on the side of the table for over an hour, Moorish coffees are the place where men of all ages meet to talk politics, and life, play cards and dominos or just sit there gazing at the passers by. Today I saw a group of four old men gathered around a traditional tray, sitting on small bunches on the sidewalk and enjoying coffee and some good looking pastries while people continuously passing by. My mother told me that only in Algeria you could see people taking their coffee on a busy avenue. I thought it looked like a nice gaada (company).
My mother and I went to one of my favorite, and most entertaining and diverse, local market the other day. And though I don’t have any photos, yet, to share with you, let me tell you something about our markets: They are not your usual farmers markets. They are loud, they are crowded, and they have everything from fruits and vegetables to shoe-shine boys, coffees under a tent, live poultry and rabbits, plumbers waiting to offer their service, letter-writer, marabout describing out loud on a microphone how his “medicine” can help urinary infections, and so much more.
Though I could have spent the whole day listening to the marabout and his fascinating stories, our basket was empty and the sight of sticky dates, pomegranates, roman beans and shiny fennel was more tempting. As we filled our mouths with samples and our baskets with heavy cabbage, tomatoes, dates, tangerines, Jerusalem artichoke, cardoons, fennel, herbs and olives, lunch was quickly taking shape. It was going to be a cabbage salad with celery and tomatoes, my father’s favorite, braised fennel with grilled meat and oranges. We carried our heavy bounty together, we were content with what we had, and nothing was missing. As we turned back to go home, we saw fall. We saw fall in a small red, dirty sweet potato. They were hidden between other potatoes and cauliflowers. They were heavy, they were beautiful, and they were going to be our third course.
My mother has different ways of cooking sweet potatoes. She bake them, fry them like French fries and sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar at the end, or cook them in a tagine with saffron, cinnamon and honey. The dish takes 30minutes from peeling the potatoes to having them on your plate, and they are absolutely delicious. They melt in your mouth; they absorb all the spices and aromas of the syrupy sauce and they are all what a home is all about: sweet, warm and comforting.
Sweet Potatoes Tagine
Recipe: Serves four
- 2lb sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
- ½ cinnamon stick
- A pinch of saffron
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1tsp orange blossom water
- 1tbsp honey
- 1 cup water
- A pinch of salt
- 1tbsp sweet butter
- A handful of raisins to serve (optional)
In a saucepan, put all the ingredients and bring to a boil over a medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered with a lid, until the potatoes are just tender, but not too mushy, and the sauce reduces to a thick syrup, about 20 minutes.
Serve immediately sprinkled with raisins or roasted, flaked almonds.
Tagine de Patates Douces
In Français Please: pour 4 personnes
- 1Kg de patates douces, pelées et coupées en morceaux
- ½ bâtonnet de cannelle
- Une pincée de safran
- ½ c.c de safran de l’Inde
- 1c.c d’eau de fleur d’oranger
- 1c.s de miel
- 225ml d’eau
- Une pincée de sel
- 1c.s de beurre
- Une poignée de raisins secs pour servir (facultatif)
Dans une casserole, sur un feu moyen, mettre tous les ingrédients, couvrir et porter à ébullition. Réduire le feu et laisser mijoter jusqu’à ce que les patates soient tendres et que la sauce soit d’une consistance onctueuse, environ 20minutes.
Servir tout de suite saupoudré de raisins secs ou d’amandes effilées légèrement grillées.