Wondering where does couscous come from? Well, let’s first see what couscous is. A traditional food in the Mediterranean and Arabic regions of the world, couscous is a light and versatile dish that requires very little in the way of utensils for its preparation.
Couscous was an ideal food for both nomadic and agricultural people. Nowadays, it is especially popular with busy professionals and families with little time to cook from scratch. Couscous is also the go-to- choice for those who value the nutritional quality of their food.
The preparation of couscous is one that symbolizes happiness and abundance. This is what anthropologists have mentioned and this philosophy fully resonates with Martino’s ethos of preparing products that are healthy and genuine with love. So where did this happy dish come from? Where does couscous come from?
The Arrival and Popularization of Couscous
Some believe that couscous is a traditional meal from Trapani, and that couscous comes from the west coast of Sicily. But history attributes its origins in North Africa. couscous is known as the traditional dish of the Berbers. The ethnic group of North Africa, in whose language couscous means “well rolled” or “well formed.”
Since there, couscous came to spread around the world and became a principal meal for Moroccans, Algerians, and Tunisians. couscous is the official Moroccan national dish and Tunisia’s unofficial national dish. But it’s more than just a food: for many families preparing couscous is a ritual and a tradition that binds the generations together. In many ways, couscous is to Tunisia what pasta is to Italy. It’s not just food to put on the table, it’s a centerpiece of family life.
The development of wheat farming in the 11th century spread the popularity of couscous even further. After the industrialization period thanks to companies like Martino, couscous has become a widely appreciated food. It has a great taste and texture, as well as with many instant variants all around the world.
DID YOU KNOW?
One of the first written references to couscous is in the thirteenth-century Hispano-Muslim cookery book. It contains a recipe from Marrakesh, alcuzcuz fitīyānī. A couscous recipe ideal for the young children. It was also described as “known all over the world.” Even centuries ago, couscous was a beloved and popular dish known to many.
The fact that the name is given with the Arabic article al- is a flag to the linguist that the original couscous preparation probably was not an Arab dish. It is thought to be a Berber dish, because the Arabic words siksū, kuskus, and kusksi, which all mean “Couscous,” do not have the article.
We know that the Naṣrid royalty in Granada ate couscous, as is mentioned in a culinary poem by the qāḍī (magistrate) of Granada. It goes like this: “Talk to me about kuskusū, it is a noble and distinguished dish”. Another Hispano-Muslim cookbook, includes a couscous recipe: the Kitāb faḍālat al-khiwān. It is a book from either the late eleventh or thirteenth century.
So as we wonder about the places where couscous comes from, we also realize that it is probably one of the oldest foods that has reached us in its original state of preparation. It is all thanks to the safekeeping of culinary traditions throughout the centuries. However, factories like the family-owned Martino, have introduced a touch of modernity to couscous. This definitely contributes to couscous finding its place among the most popular foods in the modern market.
Types of Couscous
One interesting thing about couscous is that there are three main types: Moroccan, Israeli, and Lebanese. They slightly differ in texture and size.
- Moroccan couscous is the tiniest grain and cooks the quickest. It is the most popular of the three types as it is the one most readily available. Brands like Martino have focused their product range on a variety of thin, medium and thick alternatives of the Moroccan couscous. This produces the best results when cooked both in texture and taste.
- “Pearl” couscous comes from Israel and it takes a little longer to cook because the pellets are about the size of peppercorns. Israeli couscous blended with orzo, baby garbanzo beans, and red quinoa is a great side dish. It is very popular in the country as well.
- Lebanese couscous grains are the largest of the three types and cook slowly, similar to rice. They visually resemble chickpeas.
Where is Couscous popular?
So now that we know where couscous comes from let’s see where this dish is popular nowadays. Today, in Northern Africa and Morocco couscous continues to be an important part of many meals. However, the food has travelled all around the world.
In Medieval times, the Muslim parts of Spain (al-Andalus) widely consumed couscous, and from this entry point the food spread throughout Europe. Today it is especially popular in France, but Italy is not far behind with its rich traditions in couscous making.
Products like Martino’s couscous are readily available in stores and everyone can have them. So, preparing couscous is no longer a time-consuming and cumbersome task. It’s quick and easy to rehydrate couscous after buying it from a grocery store. It is also very easy to cook and serve it in combination with your preferred vegetables or meat.
Commercially produced couscous—available as regular or whole wheat in the Martino range of products—is a fairly complicated process. We have gone through several stages of quality control and careful preparation.
On one hand, this makes sure that we are keeping our proud traditions in the production process. On the other hand, we are making couscous popular to a broader segment of customers. This differentiation has allowed Martino to answer to the modern needs of the family while still preserving the centuries-old traditions.
Cooking with Couscous
While we know that couscous comes from North Africa, today it remains a dish beloved by many people around the world. Light, versatile and easy to prepare – it is a delectable addition to your menu that also has numerous health benefits.
Cooking couscous is incredibly easy and there is no limit to the combinations you can prepare – with meat and vegetables. In some parts of Tunisia’s second largest city Sfax, fish couscous is especially popular – for obvious reasons. In the interior of the country families often enjoy couscous with lamb and dried fruit. The most famous couscous dishes are a combination of the grain with lamb, herbs and spices.
Everyone has their own favorite type of couscous and everyone has their own favourite recipe. Pre-made couscous products sold today help us get creative in the kitchen and experiment in any way that we want. We can prepare tasty meals that take no time and effort.