If you are asked to quote some famous French dishes, you would be tempted to imagine very stereotyped dishes based on baguette, cheese or even snail and frogs. But, in reality, if the baguette and the cheese (accompanied by wine of course) remains in the heart of the French basic cuisine, some of you may be surprised to see couscous, a traditional dish from North Africa, be called typical French food… but really, it is! France has a strong connection to the former French colonies in North Africa and some of their cuisine has made it for good in France.
“Couscous” is a dish of steamed semolina served with vegetables and meat. The main reason for choosing couscous is its special place as the third-favourite dish in France, a country particularly renowned for its gastronomy.
Couscous is an ancient dish that is nearly ubiquitous throughout the countries of the southern Mediterranean. It is a staple dish in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya. Royalty in the kingdom of Granada knew of couscous, as mentioned in several thirteenth century books. It is also known to be an occasional dish in Egypt and Syria.
Couscous also conquered Italy. It is a traditional dish in the cuisine of Trapani in Sicily. In Rome, Bartolomeo Scappi’s culinary guide of 1570 describes a Moorish dish, succussu, in Tuscany. One of the earliest references to couscous in France is in Brittany, yet it made an earlier appearance in Provence, where the traveller Jean-Jacques Bouchard wrote of eating it in Toulon in 1630.
Today, couscous is available in traditional, canned, frozen and microwaveable forms. It has incorporated all the latest codes of contemporary consumption: organic, fair trade, pre-packaged meals, takeaway, etc. It is served at canteens, restaurants, cafés, markets, and catered events.
So, if you are in France, do not hesitate to stop in some Maghrebi/North African restaurants in Paris, you will not be disappointed!
And what about your country? Do you cook couscous? If yes, how do you call it / cook it?
Have a nice Saturday always with mouthwashing discoveries!
Writen by Oriane Yabi, Law student in European LL.B at Catholic University of Lille (Paris campus), under the supervision of Francesca Bisiani, lecturer in the FLD in Paris, Université Catholique de Lille.
Post edited by Katerina Palamioti, Translator, Social Media and Content Manager, Communication Trainee and Foodie at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament.
Amina B´eji-B´echeur, Nacima Ourahhmoune, Nil Oz¸ca˘glar-Toulouse. The polysemic meanings ¨ of couscous consumption in France. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, Wiley, 2014, 13, pp.196- 203. Available at: http://bit.ly/2qQWCJc
Cynthia Bertelsen. Couscous in France: It’s a Long Story. Available at: http://bit.ly/2rCdPu3. (Accessed 03/06/2017)
José-Alain Fralon. Couscous à la conquête du monde. Available at: http://lemde.fr/2qR4Zof (available only in French) (Accessed: 03/06/2017)