I was emailed by Ann Rolland of Station Gourmande to explain why I wrote the 5th line in my 23rd post on this blog. The fifth line is "serves 4" I wrote that because the recipe serves 4. But that's not a fun line to explain.
So I will explain why I wrote "in Setif my mother would take me foraging for wild greens for salads and soups"
I wrote that because that's what we did. It illustrates the closeness to the earth and its foods that we have. We can recognize edible ingredients without a label from a farmer or a supermarket. We did the same in the Beaujolais where I grew up. It is not a particularly Algerian thing. This is true of rural, agrarian societies.
Ma maman is a frail, delicate woman. She has chronic health problems and as a result her face is bony but through the adoring eyes of her son the beautiful young woman she once was is still present. She does not talk much, she speaks with her eyes. One look from her and I know what she means. Sometimes she makes me laugh, other times she makes me cry with the memories that flicker underneath the surface. Ma maman was orphaned or abandoned during Colonial times. I have never asked her about it and probably never will. Some things do not need to be spoken of with words.
She is the opposite of my beloved laughing, talkative, robust Aunt Farida. I've already written about her generous figure and laughing green eyes. Her thick, plump, strong arms. She is the one who taught about the fancy streaks in Algerian cooking. My mother taught me about the humble things.
These are the women who taught me how to cook. The first authorities for me when learning how to cook were feminine. I had to behave myself in their kitchens for fear of banishment.
Ma maman never really explained her cooking to me. We don't have long conversations. I learned from her by watching and by taking long walks with her in the hills foraging for wild greens.