I haven’t had griyo in a little over a month—since I moved to Algeria.
Yes, folks, I willingly moved to a part of the world where people don’t eat pork (it’s “haram”— forbidden or proscribed by Islamic law) and where the meat isn’t even available for sale. Do not question my Haitian-ness! Your girl has a plan! When Algeria opens its border, I plan on travelling to Paris regularly (there’s a significant Haitian community in France, the majority lives in Paris) to satisfy my cravings. I haven’t planned a trip yet. However, the current state of the Algerian-French relationship has me a little bit worried.
Living in Algiers means forgoing part of my culinary heritage—specifically: griyo ak bannann peze.
Algeria is a Muslim country. According to World Atlas, 99% of the Algerian population practice Islam, with the majority belonging to the Sunni branch of Islam. Tenets of the Muslim faith are incorporated to local legislation, including regulations around the consumption of alcohol and pork. Nevertheless, Algeria produces both wine and beer. It’s a bit of a mindf*ck, right. Alcohol isn’t as accessible as it is in North America. So far, I’ve tasted a rosé (Sahara – Gris des sables d’Algérie) and a beer (Tango); they were both pretty good. I have yet to patron an establishment where alcohol is served, nor have I seen a store where it’s sold. I’ve used a delivery service to get my supply.
Griyo isn’t the only thing missing in my life. I haven’t seen a single plantain since I moved here. My Arabic teacher did mention that he wasn’t familiar with the fruit. But I clung to the hope that maybe I’d find some. Living in Algiers means forgoing part of my culinary heritage—specifically: griyo ak bannann peze**.
I lived in Canada for a little over 16 years prior to moving to Algiers. I am used to going without some of my favourite Haitian dishes and snacks for a significant amount of time. But Port-au-Prince was only a few hours away by plane. Also, there was always a friend or family member who’d bring or send me a care package. I didn’t feel that far away from home. But here, in Algiers, I must start from scratch. I haven’t found a Haitian community yet (do let me know if you know someone with whom I can connect), and I haven’t identified the stores (in Paris) where I’ll go do some shopping.
While I miss some of my favourite foods, I’m having a gem of a time. I absolutely love learning about the new culture, exploring my new environment and building a new life here. As I’m writing this post, I can hear the call to prayer from the nearest mosque. And it brings me so much joy. The type of joy that makes missing griyo ak bannann peze a little more tolerable.
*griyo: Haitian dish made of marinated deep-fried pork (The genius it must have taken to invent this dish. Yum!)
**bannan peze: deep-fried plantains