Thursday, 1 January 2015

The life of a revolving door

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… 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!


  1. Masha'allah. I absolutely adore your writing. Sounds very hectic and very familiar to me. May Allah reward you for everything you do for your family.
    And to add, the patisserie and fast food has gotten SO much better as time goes on:)
    We do miss you at the meetings.

    1. BarakAllahufiki for your lovely comment and ameen to your dua. Yes, Alhamdulillah patisserie and 'fast food' (which is still the total opposite of what it says!) has improved enormously here. We (meaning the girls and I) also miss going to the meetings but for the moment it is as it is.

  2. salamu aleykum,

    hmm , my 4 children are between 9 and 14 1/2 years old and i allready feel exactly the same like you, shouldn't i be in the time where you said they helped out???
    What did i wrong?
    BarakAllahu fiki that you made me feel that i'm not alone subhanAllah! All this cooking and trying to focus on something when everybody si moving and speaking arround! hehe i have allways the same conclusion that to have my calm and peace i would have to left.....!
    May Allah subhanHu accept our sacrifices.
    Please for any suggestion of cooking quick and healthy don't hesitate to post it, even after 10 years i'm still wondering how to cook/bake wiser.
    barakAllahu fiki.

  3. Walaykum asalaam wa rahmatulah,Um-Zakaria, you don't know it yet....but you DO have time at the's not until it's gone that you realise what you missed! Your children are coming into that age when they need just as much attention as they did when they were very young....just a different kind of attention. I try to do the mundane things like cooking, baking and cleaning when they are around and keep the precious time when they are all out to do something more satisfying. Of course this means that those boring jobs sometimes take twice as long to do with all the interruptions! Ameen to your dua and every single one of those boring jobs becomes an act of worship when we say 'Bismillah' before we start and then do them in that spirit inshallah. I'm afraid that one thing that has not changed since I moved over is my lament 'what will I cook tomorrow?' With 6 children and a husband it's difficult (impossible at times) to please everyone and I refuse to cook more than one thing, so trying to find something everyone will eat is hard. But maybe I could post some of my tried and tested recipes that have withstood the sands of time and whose ingredients are easy to find here inshallah. But I must warn you....I don't have much confidence in my cooking or baking....i just get on with it because I have to. Wa fika baraka,

  4. salamu aleykum,

    barakAllahu fiki for your answer! I saw i made some mistakes, sorry i'm not a native english speaker.
    Ahhh these are not good news! But glad you told me so i don't procrastinate projects longer incha'a Allah!
    The tip is very good to make the boring things when evryone is arround and not sacrifie the precious time when evryone is out (not often for me with nightshiftworking husband and children with different timetables.)
    With recipes i meant the quick ones hh! But if this disturbs your blog why not post it at the forum. I have now experience after 10 years what to cook with local ingridients, but i'm allways looking for simple, quick meals. Or planning better and cook in advance if possible, but i'm not good in this, and i allways failed at menuplanning too.
    My routine on sunday after the weekend for example, when the whole house is in chaos, is to cook red lentil soup which takes me about 15 minutes!
    Mash'a aAllah 6 children, Allahumma barik!

  5. Walaykum asalaam wa rahmatulah Um-Zakaria. No problems at all about your English and no need to apologise - I cannot imagine trying to write in any language other than English. My oral French is bad enough but to attempt to write it would be catastrophic! Me, too - I'm always looking for ways to reduce the amount of time I spend cooking so short quick dishes are the best. Often I cook something that I know will last for two days. Your Sunday is my Saturday - with 4 of mine usually out the door early in the morning! No....I don't have 6 of them is my husband! lol! I 'only' have 5 Alhamdulilah!

  6. I can really really relate to this! I find that life is so much more hectic now! But ... as much as I love your posts, my main reason for commenting is that I noticed what seems like the sleeve of a crocheted top! Details when we meet please!!!

  7. OMG is ANY crochet or knitting safe around you????? LOL! That sleeve belonged to my sister - she wasn't comfortable about wearing anything short-sleeved or sleeveless while she was here so she wore this cool top to cover her modesty! Very 'crafty' and also very culturally sensitive of her....and very much appreciated by all of us!