Algerians develop taste for cookbooks
Cookbook sales are spiking in Algeria. From young brides to retired old men, Algerians are eager to try home-made "haute cuisine".By Mohand Ouali for Magharebia in Algiers – 22/09/10
[Mohand Ouali] Bookstores in Algeria are seeing brisk business from cookbook sales.
The cookbook craze begun during Ramadan shows no sign of slowing. Algerians see innovative home cooking as a way to help lower household finances and please finicky families.
"Every day I have to think about the menu I'm going to prepare, and it's not at all easy," Souhila told Magharebia in an Algiers bookshop. She is looking for culinary inspiration and recipe suggestions.
"My children, and particularly my husband, have become more demanding over time, and they're no longer happy just to stick to the standard menus," she explained.
Samiha, a management secretary, admits that cooking is not her forte, with or without cookbooks. She laughs as she talks about her trials and tribulations when she lived with her in-laws for a few years:
"It was awful. Particularly because of my brother-in-law, who'd start wailing if he saw me in the kitchen!" she says.
Everyone has been bitten by the cooking bug. Newspapers, radio stations, television channels and websites offer cooking resources and recipe competitions. Agribusinesses have also jumped on the bandwagon, printing simple recipes on their packaging.
Cookbooks are still the most popular choice.
"My daughter-in-law doesn't know how to cook without these books," one elderly woman said dismissively.
Many Algerian women, with their new urban lifestyles, admit that they lack the culinary skills common to older generations. But young Algerians say that their interest in cookbooks shows that they are both better educated and less afraid of new things than their predecessors.
Publishers have been quick to capitalise on the trend. Since hardcover editions can cost several thousand dinars, publishers began issuing recipe collections in paperback form.
The marketing strategy appears to be working.
"Cookery books are selling like hot cakes, so of course we're delighted!" said a sales assistant in the Errachidia bookshop. Another bookstore in the city centre said cookbooks are the top-selling category.
Samiha, a public sector worker, is shopping for a particular favourite.
"I've just come here to buy some 'Samira' books, with a wide variety of recipes. The ones I bought a few years ago have gone out of print now."
Chahinez, in her forties, had a twinkle in her eye as she told Magharebia, "I love cooking!" She has a good collection of cookbooks, she explained, since she has no internet at home.
"I would like to try my hand at different things, but I stick to Algerian and Middle-Eastern cuisine. I've never ventured into Mexican dishes, for example, but I'm tempted to give French food a go," she added.
It's not just women who are eager to experiment with culinary adventures.
Mohamed, recently retired, now has all the time in the world to indulge in his favourite hobby.
"I go round the old market in Algiers in the early afternoon, to buy what I need," he tells Magharebia. Having travelled and worked in many countries, he is eager to explain in exhaustive detail exactly how he prepares exotic dishes which only he seems to know.
Cooking enthusiasts, meanwhile, say that everyone can join in the fun. They have a suggestion for aspiring chefs who cannot go online or afford fancy cookbooks: why not ask a neighbour or colleague what they plan to simmer on the stove?
Swapping ideas, they say, is a real recipe for success.