I started maison djeribi in 2005, about a year after the sudden death of my mother : my mother was a bread person, she did not bake bread herself but always said she could survive on bread alone, she ate bread for breakfast, bread with lunch and dinner, bread and honey or jam for goûter, and nibbled on dried bread in between. I suppose I started baking bread weekly as a survival chore, as occupational therapy so I would not lose my head altogether. I had always wanted to know how to bake bread, trial and a lot of errors, talking to people and reading books. When I moved from France to Ireland in 1990 it became an imperative. Soda bread is very nice but not a staple for my life, it is more cake than bread to me, in fact the Irish word for it is cake, a cake is then called ‘sweet cake’. My initial sourdough breads were an aquired taste, very central europeanish, quite dense, would keep for a long time, for ever, I suspect.
A couple of months after my mother’s death, Sylvie, a fairy I met in a little organic artisan bakery in Brittany, gave me an eggstandfull of sourdough and told me to look after it. I barely knew how to, I worried that I was not yet ready for it, I worried that I would let it die, that I was not worthy of it. By miracle it arrived home safely but it took me months of daily or weekly breadmaking before we were able to work together. I needed to learn how to look after it, it needed to learn to trust me. One day we made friends, this was very clear to me, no more bread thrown out to the hens. It is part of the family now and comes with us on holidays.
I had understood at a very early age how life, love and food were not to be pulled apart. I had learned that in my Tunisian grandmother’s kitchen, the noises and the smells, the generosity applied that translated itself in big splatters of flames and foods. Eating couscous or whatever delicious combination of dishes she had prepared for us, I felt her love pouring in, life pouring in. When I remember those meals it makes me feel more alive even now. Were we sure we had had enough to eat ?
By creating my mini-business I soon realized I was making real a dream we had often entertained my mother and I about opening a ‘salon de thé’, or a one-main-course restaurant. Today my grandmother and my mother are with me in the kitchen. I can hear their advice and I can feel their approval.
So this is how maison djeribi came about, a little one-woman business that will stay minuscule and make me and a few others happy.