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"Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you what you are" And what would our philosopher tell us about Tunisians ?

Plain folk - for whom bread remains the staff of life. From the urban "baguette" to the unleavened country bread baked in a clay domed oven "tabouna" , each region boasts its specialty. Freshly baked bread is available throughout the day and no family meal is complete without it.

Sophisticated gourmets Sophisticated gourmets - Tunisians' pride themselves on their fine taste buds. Indeed woe to the chef who forgets the touch of cumin in a grilled fish or the bay leaf in the mloukhia, a beef stew thickened with corčte. Lamb is the basis of most meat dishes and purchased from one's family butcher after close examination and exhaustive questioning as to the region, season, breed and age. A favorite way to prepare young lamb is coucha - portions of shoulder meat are rubbed with a sauce of olive oil, salt, a sprig of mint, a touch of cayenne pepper and turmeric and baked in a slow oven in a tightly covered earthenware dish .



A summer "dinner" may consist of home pressed olive oil, a
few green olives, country bread, heavy and grainy and a salad of sliced scarlet radishes or plump tomatoes served with grilled fish. Pampered by miles of coast and a unpolluted and generous sea, seafood is a mainstay of the Tunisia diet. Without question, the blue ribbon goes to the Rouget -red mullet, a delicious fish either grilled or fried . The varieties of seafood from the imperial royal shrimp to the familiar and much appreciated sardine are endless and each region has its recipes and secrets for preparation. Jerba in particular is known for the excellence of these gifts of the sea.



Tunisian meals are social events and the longer the better. A typical meal would begin with shorba frik- lamb soup with flavored with tomato paste, coriander, parsley and seasonings in which green spring wheat grains are slowly simmered, is served with slices of lemon. Brik, followed by Slata mechouia - grilled green peppers , tomatoes and garlic finely chopped .Spices and olive oil are added and the salad is garnished with tuna fish, hard eggs, olives and capers. Dinner will now begin. Assorted stews follow roasts of lamb, veal or fish, tajine - a rich, flavorsome omelet baked with chopped meat, vegetables and cheese. Fresh salad, fruits, pastries and custards, coffee and tea make the finale.


Holidays are occasions for the preparation of traditional specialties and though there is some leeway given to the chef'screativity, the main ingredients vary little. On the Mouled, zgougou ,a sweet pudding of ground pine seeds , topped by a vanilla cream and decorated with grated nuts is served throughout Tunisia. The Aid El Fitr, a day marking the end of the Ramadan fast is celebrated by families visiting each other, bringing and receiving plates of pastries, homebaked or purchased with bakloua or makroudh as all time favorites. Aid El Kebir brings to the table a myriad of dishes prepared with lamb- cuminia,osbane, mechoui, lamb chops or cuts grilled over charcoal. Ras El Am, the Moslem New Year is greeted not with champagne but with mloukhia.


While most Tunisians like their food hot and spicy, restaurants and hotels prepare their menus considering the tastes of their visitors and serve harissa separately. This condiment is made of crushed dried red peppers, garlic and spices and adds a definite zest to any meal. It is a mainstay of many dishes and can be toned down by a touch of olive oil. Many menus are also printed with English, German and French translations of the dishes.




Sweet loving Tunisians have adopted the Turkish baklava - layers of whisper thin pastry interspersed with ground pine nuts, almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios, bathed in golden butter, baked and dipped in a honey syrup. No holiday, wedding, christening or dinner party could be considered without it. Other sweets, makroudh ,a specialty of Kairouan of semolina pastry stuffed with dates, caak, almond paste wrapped in fine dough ,as well as a myriad of regional specialties make up the traditional platter served for every joyous occasion. The vast almond orchards of Sfax supply the different types of almonds that are the basic ingredient of most sweets and cakes. Tunisian pastries are given as gifts for holidays and are well worth a trip to the nearest pastry shop.