Dido does Chermoula

August 30, 2011

I am often intimidated by sauce recipes. Not tomato sauce–that I can manage–but the spicier sauces of Asian and African cookery that run a long list of ingredients. Chermoula is a case in point: cilantro, mint, lemons, serranos, shallots, garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, olive oil, and salt. The recipe did not mention salt, but I can assure you that salt was very necessary.

Now that I list the contents, perhaps it does not seem so impressive. Perhaps it does not look so impressive either.

Chermoula is from Tunisia where it might be eaten with breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Queen Elissa (better known by her Latin name, Dido) though Phoenician in origin, traveled to where Tunisia now stands to found the city of Carthage.

Dido was a good ruler. Her city was productive, peaceful, and beautiful. Alas, Dido fell in love with Aeneas and Virgil tells us that when he left for Rome she stabbed herself, jumped into a burning pyre and swore eternal strife between her land and Rome. She was the original “drama queen.”  However, she was perfectly lovely at dinner.

Over several glasses of wine Dido explained that she was merely acting as a vehicle for the goddesses Juno and Venus in her flamboyant suicide curse. Left to her own devises she would have simply given Aeneas a good meal, a thorough tour, several chests of gold and sent him on his way. She would not have waged war for thousands of years. Love was a poor excuse for all that bloodshed. Salt, on the other hand, well…

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