Simple Restoratives to the Hungary Stomach’: 18th Century Barbary and Beyond

In spite of many years travelling in Northwest Africa, and being fluent in Arabic, Jackson seems to have had a number of defamers in England. Primarily the armchair-type...

J.G. Jackson, Resident of Morocco for 16 years at the end of the 18th Century and connoisseur of local cultures, provides the following information on basic foods of Northwest Africa.  Kouskous, the first food, is a basic staple all of the way down to the Senegal River:

Kuscasoe is, flour moistened with water, and granulated with the hand to the size of partridge-shot. It is then put into a steamer uncovered, under which fowls, or mutton, and vegetables, such as onions, and turnips, are put to boil:

When the steam is seen to pass through the kuscasoe it is taken off and shook in a bason, to prevent the adhesion of the grains; and then put in the steamer again, and steamed a second time.

When it is taken off, some butter, salt, pepper, and saffron, are mixed with it, and it is served up in a large bowl.  The top is garnished with the fowl or mutton, and the onions and turnips.

When the saffron has made it the colour of straw, it has received the proper quota.

This is, when properly cooked, a very palatable and nutritious dish.

Jackson describes couscous serving platters made of red cedar, such as this one - which is early 19th Century

Hassua is gruel boiled, and then left over the fire two hours. It is made with barley not ground into flour, but into small particles the size of sparrow-shot.

It is a very salubrious food for breakfast, insomuch that they have a proverb which intimates that physicians need never go to those countries wherein the inhabitants break their fast with hassua.

Hasseeda is barley roasted in an earthen pan, then powdered in a mortar, and mixed with cold water, and drank.  This is the travelling food of the country–of the Arab, the  Moor, the Berebber, the Shelluh, and the Negro; and is  universally used by travellers in crossing the Sahara: the  Akkabas that proceed from Akka and Tatta to Timbuctoo,  Houssa, and Wangara, are always provided with a sufficient  quantity of this simple restorative to the hungry stomach.

D’s Note:  In Sudan (northern) ‘Hasseda’ is pronounced ‘3asiida’.  It is the basic starch, generally made of sorghum or millet flour that is boiled with water until rather thick, and replaces bread.  It is always accompanied by a dipping sauce.

In this way, basic travelling foods found their way across Africa with the caravan trade, often utilizing grains that were available in a given place.


About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-North, Colonialism, Food, Middle East, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Simple Restoratives to the Hungary Stomach’: 18th Century Barbary and Beyond

  1. Pingback: Simple Restoratives to the Hungary Stomach': 18th Century Barbary … | arablives

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