The Couscous Festival, coming to Pasadena this October, has now been extended to a second day. Which tells you how much interest has already been generated, five months before the event. The now two-day festival, which is organized by chef Farid Zadi, will incorporate cooking demonstrations, talks, shopping, a tea ceremony and music. Zadi has now moved the fun into Sunday, with talks by former L.A. Times food section staffer Charles Perry (on medieval North African and Andalusian dishes) and local cookbook author Clifford Wright (the origins of couscous and the first pastas). Faye Levy has also been added to the lineup on Saturday, with a talk on North African Jewish cooking and a sample tasting. Oh, and lest you forget, Saturday Paula Wolfert will be demonstrating cornmeal couscous.
When we emailed Perry to ask what his talk would be about, he wrote back with the following explanation:
“Chef Zadi asked me to talk about medieval Moorish cuisine, since I've translated one of the 13th-century Moorish books and studied the other. I'll talk about characteristics of the cuisine such as couscous, flaky pastries, the madness for putting an egg topping (takhmir) on dishes (and the relationship of this to modern Tunisian practice), the Berber, Jewish and European elements, the rich repertoire of fish dishes (compared with the Arab East), the custom of serving dishes in courses (another distinction from the East) and characteristic dishes such as ras al-maimun (“the monkey's head”). Also, the Moorish heritage in Iberia and Andalusian influence in North Africa, and Andalusia as a conduit of Perso-Arab culinary ideas to Europe.”
Perry also said that he's thinking of doing a cooking demo as well, “if I have time with all that.” How about a third day? Perry could easily fill it all himself, even without getting to those pesky CIA rumors.
Couscous Festival: held October 16-17, between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., at Mama's Kitchen Incubator, 45 North San Gabriel Blvd., Pasadena. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased here. Advance purchase of tickets is required. Tickets are sold in two time blocks (11:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.) to control crowds. $20 per person includes $15 worth of food tickets. Additional food tickets can be purchased in advance or on site the day of the festival.