Depending on the region, and though the celebration has no official status, spring is often celebrated in Algeria by sharing what’s fresh and local, be it savory or sweet, with family and loved ones around a picnic. In the eastern and central part of the country, it is welcomed by making little dates and semolina galettes. In the Kabylie region by making couscous with Thapsia plant, fresh fava beans, poppy buds or green peas and preserved meat. In rural and mountainous areas, early spring outings are also an opportunity to harvest a wide variety of plants and flowers, many of which are edible.
Growing up in Algeria, my school vacations were often spent at my grandparents. Every spring, my nana (grandmother) would welcome the rebirth of life by filling a basket with fresh dates and making mbesses; a diamond shaped little semolina bread made with fresh butter and cooked on a Tagine. Ba (my grandfather) would carry the plate of mbesses and I the basket of dates and together we would go outside, on our sidewalk and hand out mbesses and dates to passers, kids coming from school, young and old coming from work. Later, back in my nana’s kitchen, a bowl of couscous with fresh green peas all drizzled with local olive oil will await us. And so will a plate of freshly made rayeb (a sort of plain yogurt)
We carried this tradition even after Ba passed away. Still, it wasn’t the same not having him by my side on that sidewalk. Soon after, my nana and I would just share dates and mbesses directly with our family and neighbors.
Whatever you are doing this spring season, I wish you all a blissful and healthy spring!