(In)Edible Algeria: Transmitting Pied-Noir Nostalgia Through Food

Amy L. Hubbell


Abstract

For those exiled from Algeria during and after the Algerian War for Independence (1954-1962), sustaining memories of the homeland has been a consuming pastime. Food has especially played a large part in reconnecting Algeria’s former French citizens, the Pieds-Noirs, to their past. Annual gatherings feature typical dishes such as couscous, merguez, méchoui, mouna, which like the Proustian madeleine, transport the Pieds-Noirs to a preceding time of wholeness and comfort, allowing them to experience, if only fleetingly, a sense of immortality. While food has a reparative quality for the community’s memory, it is also the site of rejection and pain for some. Marie Cardinal writes about food as a site of unity with the indigenous Algerian community and rejection from her colonial French family. Similarly, in the collective autobiography Quatre soeurs: Hier, en Algérie, aujourd’hui en France, Frédérique Boblin, Eve Calo, Nelly Collet and Fabienne Rozotte explain their shared eating disorders as tied to their expulsion from Algeria. This essay demonstrates that the Pieds-Noirs can eat to remember Algeria, but the Algeria they knew can also prove to be inedible.

Keywords

Pieds-Noirs, Algeria, France, cuisine, memory, identity

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