Fatéma Hal, a Moroccan chef with a penchant for busting female stereotypes, cooks traditional Moroccan food at her Parisian restaurant, La Mansouria (11, rue Faidherbe, 11th Arrondissement, Paris), opened in 1984. The restaurant began with only women working there, including Fatéma’s mother, the cooking in “the hands of women.”
Unusual for France, non?
One of many “ambassadors” of non-French cuisine from France’s former colonies, Fatéma Hal is a moving force in the dissemination of Moroccan cooking in France today. Not only does she cook at her restaurant, she directs the production of many North African-inspired foods sold at Le Bon Marché and Lafayette Gourmet. And she runs a catering service out of La Mansouria as well.
Brought to France in the waves of immigration from post-independence Algeria as well as Morocco and Tunisia, couscous now appears to be part of the sacred pantheon of daily dishes eaten by French citizens of every ilk. You can even find small cans of couscous ready to heat up and eat on the run.
Born near the Algerian border, in a town called Oujda, Fatéma Hal embodies the idea of the exile and the frontier.
The author of several books on Moroccan cuisine, Fatéma Hal also appears in a food show on Moroccan television. A few of her books have been translated into English.
In a recent departure from writing about cooking, Fatéma Hal wrote a memoir, Fille des frontières, which the French press calls a story like a novel. Tied to a cousin in an arranged marriage, she finally left with her three children and returned to school, studying Arabic literature and ethnology.
Because so many cuisines remained handed down from mother to daughter, and Moroccan cuisine never deviated from that basic fact, the menus at La Mansouria reflect that culinary tradition.
Fatéma Hal won the Legion d’Honneur from the French government for her work in 2001.
For more on Fatéma Hal, take a look at her cookbooks:
Authentic Recipes from Morocco: 60 Simple and Delicious Recipes from the Land of the Tagine (2007)
The Food of Morocco: Authentic Recipes from the North African Coast (2002)
La Cuisine du Ramadan (2006)
Le Meilleur de la Cuisine Marocaine
Les Saveurs & Les Gestes: Cuisines Et Traditions Du Maroc (1996)
Tajines et Quadras (2007)
© 2011 C. Bertelsen