|One of the nicer selections of patisserie cakes|
When we were still in England, before we moved to Algeria I really believed that one of the big advantages for me in moving to Algeria would be all the free time I would have to myself. Time was slower there; at least whenever I was on holiday it certainly seemed the case.
My husband told me that if I didn’t feel like cooking or baking I wouldn’t have to as there was plenty of cooked food to be bought and the patisseries shop cakes were wonderful and very cheap. I don’t know who got more of a shock on that score, him or me, but after a few ‘take-out’s’ consisting of: overcooked roast chicken, ‘frite omelette’ which consisted of exactly that – chips and omelette in a baguette, or what they euphemistically called a pizza, but which was, in fact, a pizza base slathered with tomato puree with a sprinkling of plastic cheese that wouldn’t melt even if you cooked the base to a cinder, or else had cream cheese dotted around it, that idea went totally out the window . The patisserie shops usually only sold small tartlettes, sometimes with pastry that tasted of cardboard, and ‘mille feuille’ which was actually about three sheets of cardboard sandwiched together with grey custard all served up in a nice neat rectangle. Admittedly we lived outside the centre of Algiers in a place which, although a new development, was still quite conservative in many ways, and where ready-made food sold outside the home was in short supply and rather inadequate. There were some wonderful restaurants and patisserie shops in Algiers centre and its suburbs and I had THE most delicious melt-in-the-mouth ‘mille feuille’ once when my husband’s sister-in-law treated me to one in one of the posher areas of Algiers.
But in the area in which I lived there was very little to be had so I had to cook and bake almost every day…..and…..from scratch. No easy shortcuts here. If I wanted a pizza I had to make the base as well, no defrosting one from the freezer and putting my own toppings on it. Ready-made chips were unheard of so it was a case of peeling, chipping and cooking them, no mean feat if there’s no water and the electricity has gone. All the recipes I had from the UK seemed to have one vital ingredient missing that I couldn’t acquire here and so my daily moan became ‘what on earth will/can I cook today?’ Of course the best thing would have been to imitate the Algerians in what they cooked but my family, including my Algerian husband, didn’t like a lot of their food, which was, in many ways a blessing because some of the things they cooked were time consuming and labour intensive. Fine, if you have daughter and sister-in-laws to help, but a real chore when it’s just one person cooking for a company of hungry gannets.
Little by little I managed to adapt, thinking ahead and planning meals, and we moved to a different area of Algiers where foodstuffs were better quality and more varied, if a bit on the expensive side. The children were out in school or University and I got on with my busy day, and, as they grew older they helped as much as they could so life became easier…for a while. I didn’t realise it then, but that was the best period, at least in terms of more time for me, up to now in this whole adventure of living in Algeria.
The children grew older (and therefore bigger which means they ate more!) and somehow, from what seems like nowhere, they developed lives of their own. At an age when they could all be helping me a lot more and therefore my life should be drifting off to that nice easier stage I had dreamt of, they are all really busy with school, University (whether travelling to and from or actually studying), Qur’an classes, teaching English, crafting sessions, football, going to the gym etc. etc. and I am left with the brunt of the work which has actually increased because now I am feeding an army of grown-up gannets where patisserie cakes go nowhere in satisfying that afternoon ‘sugar fix’ and a take-away costs a fortune and still leaves everyone wanting more.
The family car is now in demand from three drivers and, although we are all considerate of each other in this matter, it often means that my aspirations for a social life come second to more pressing matters. It’s difficult for me anyway to try and plan any kind of social engagement because there is always something or someone to scupper my plans – with one going out the door, another coming in, I feel it’s easier to just stop still in one place and let everyone move around me. I feel as if I’m standing still like a door while everyone goes in and out, but at the same time moving around in never-ending circles like a headless chicken, which is where my eldest daughter, Sarah, and I came up with the perfect metaphor for my life just now….…..a revolving door.
If it seems as if I’m complaining then please understand I am most definitely not – in many ways staying at home and, by so doing, enabling my husband and children to live their lives may seem difficult, and for some people I’m sure it most certainly would be, but for me…..it suits me just fine Alhamdulilah. So….I’m not complaining…..I’m explaining why it is I don’t have as much time as I thought I would have, because let’s face it really - the only way I would have more time to myself here in Algeria than I did when I lived in England is if I left my husband and children behind!
|One of our regular treats - summer AND winter!|