The Patron Saint of Sponge Cake

Mouskoutchou – ce gâteau algérien, léger comme un nuage, d’un gout très agréable parfumé au citron…..

Mouskoutchou – this Algerian sponge cake, light as a cloud, deliciously flavoured with a hint of lemon….

-Recettes algériennes


“Come with me, a mmi, this morning we’re going to visit the shrine of Sidi Messaoud, to ask for his blessing.” T. had just finished scrubbing his face with a damp flannel and was looking forward to another day’s adventures with his friends from the village. His mother’s pronouncement cast a slight shadow over the sunny day he glimpsed beckoning to him through the window of his grandparents’ house. Continue reading

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The Sunlit Uplands

Temlal tasa d way turew. 

A family reunion (Loose translation)

-Kabyle expression


Kker, a mmi, kker!” (Wake up, my son, wake up!) T could hear his mother’s voice coming from far away. He could still feel the heady pull of his dreams, beckoning him back to play. Then he remembered. Sitting bolt upright in bed, he rubbed his eyes and looked at his mother, who was trying, rather unsuccessfully, to wake his younger brothers and sister as well. The windows of their flat above the bakery on the main square of Maison Carrée were still dark, the night pressing against the panes. He started trembling from excitement and anticipation. Today was the day. Continue reading

Axxam

Ixxamen n medden weɛṛen, ma ur nɣin ad sḍeɛfen.

Living in somebody else’s house is hard – if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you lose weight.

— Kabyle proverb


If  you go ever go up into Kabylie  – either to make your annual pilgrimage to your ancestral village, or simply driven by a tourist’s curiosity – you will find that many of the villages, perched on their peaks or strung along their high ridges, have lost much of their traditional character. Continue reading

Kid Brother

Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply…
– Jane Austen


“Here! YOU talk to him! Order some more flour!” The speaker was my father-in-law, his pale, emaciated face running with sweat as he thrust the telephone receiver at the nervous eighteen-year-old youth standing in front of him. The young man took the receiver with trembling hands from his brother-in-law and looked at it in bemusement. He didn’t know one end of it from the other. How to dial? How to go through the operator? What should he say when he finally had the flour supplier on the line? Continue reading

The Martyr

The fourteenth-century historian Ibn-Khaldoun said that, in the villages of Kabylie “flourish virtues that honour the whole of humanity; nobility of soul, hatred of oppression, bravery, the keeping of promises, kindness shown towards the unfortunate, charity and constancy in adversity.”


Everyone needs a hero. A role model. Someone to admire and emulate. Someone to look up to, especially when they are young and impressionable. For most people, it is their father – perhaps an older brother. I learned very early on who had been my husband’s hero. As he was the oldest sibling in his family and his father was often preoccupied and distant, inspiring fear and respect in equal measure, it was one of his cousins who filled the hero-shaped hole in his life. Continue reading