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

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Amy L. Hubbell


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.

Article Details

Edible Alterities: Perspectives from La Francophonie Special Issue July 2013 (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

Amy L. Hubbell, University of Queensland

Amy L. Hubbell is Lecturer in French in the School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies at University of Queensland and has published widely in Francophone literature and memory studies. Her forthcoming book, Rewriting Home, Remembering French Algeria (University of Nebraska Press), demonstrates how repetition sustains nostalgia and return destabilizes the relationship to the past for the Pieds-Noirs. Amy is also author of a business French textbook, À la recherche d’un emploi: Business French in a Communicative Context (Focus Publishing, 2011) and co-editor with Natalie Edwards and Ann Miller of Textual and Visual Selves: Photography, Film and Comic Art in French Autobiography (University of Nebraska Press, 2011). Her current research focuses on the accumulation of memory in Francophone autobiography.