I decided to do something fun today and share with you a brief post about couscous history–my favorite Moroccan dish. Just had lunch, but writing about this made me hungry again!
Did you know that couscous is actually a Berber pasta dish? As such, it’s funny to hear several rumors about couscous history and how it might have originated in China. However, according to archaeological evidence (and Couscous Dari), it is indeed North African. Utensils required to make the delicious semolina-based dish date back to the 9th Century. Another interesting fact about couscous history: One of the first written evidences of its existence was found in an Andalucian-Moroccan cookbook from the 13th century (Wiki). All over the world, it is now well-known as the National Dish of Morocco.
We must thank Prophet Mohammed (puh), for the most part, for having couscous on our Western tables. The Islamic conquests and expansion actually accelerated couscous production, which was eventually brought to southern Spain (Andalucía) by the Moors. From there it hit many palates throughout the Mediterranean coast. Eventually, it also became one of France’s “traditional dishes.” Furthermore, it even made it to Brazil! We can thank the Portuguese that emigrated from Morocco to South America for that 😉
Types of couscous
There are several types of couscous: From sweet (covered with almonds, sugar, and cinnamon) to savory (smothered in chili harissa sauce in Tunisia). In fact, it can also be tossed in a salad! Unfortunately though, I haven’t had the pleasure to try many North African varieties, but can speak of lengths about Moroccan couscous.
TGIF = my own personal history of couscous (?!)
Some of my fondest memories of studying abroad in Morocco come from Couscous Fridays. For the astounding price of about US $2, I would get a massive plate of couscous, smothered with bright, thick sauce and a mountain of veggies and meat. Indeed, this gave a whole different meaning to TGIF to us transient students!
Also, every Moroccan festival literally meant a party to my taste buds. Typically, I would spend every holiday either with my American-Moroccan friend Laura in Marrakesh or my fellow Moroccan classmate Sarah at Al-Jadida. This would mean more mountains of home cooked couscous. Ohhh, those were the happy days!