The Table of My Ancestors: Week 8 (North Africa – Tunisia)

To read the post that started it all, click here!

Tunisia is one country I admittedly don’t know much about, so I was a bit hesitant to try recipes from there without doing some research. I learned that harissa is very common in Tunisian cooking, and since we love spicy stuff in our family, I figured it would be a hit. I also was eager to learn more about Tunisia because I know that the ancient city of Carthage is a modern-day suburb in Tunis, Tunisia’s capital. Carthage, I learned in my Christian history class this year, was the site of the martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas, two women who were martyred for their faith and whose accounts of their persecution fascinates me.

Artwork by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

But back to the cooking.
I chose a simple chicken dish that I found on a global recipes website. It was basically chicken in a broth of cinnamon, cumin, coriander, salt, garlic, onion and, of course, harissa. I served it with rice and with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses overtop, as suggested. It was a hit! Both my husband and daughter went back for seconds, and I found that the heat of the harissa was sweetened nicely by the pomegranate.

If you’d like to give it a try, you can find the recipe here!

As I close out my month of North African cooking, I have found that I’ve loved using spices and flavorings that are uncommon in our traditional Western meals — saffron. Ras el hanout. Cardamom. Harissa. These are staples in North African recipes and add such depth and richness to the meals that I really think we’re missing out by not using more of them! It is a beautiful thought to imagine my ancestors, my great-great-grandmothers and beyond, somewhere in a kitchen in North Africa, flavoring the meals they prepared for their families, much as I did. I wonder if they marveled like I did over the stunning yellow that saffron adds. If they licked their lips as I did when adding tablespoons of ras el hanout. I will never know them, never know their names or faces, but it is such a comfort to think that this thread, at least, ties us together.

Featured image is “Tunisia” by fabio.dilupo is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0