Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

In Memoriam Sidi El Gouche

February 27, 2009

In Memoriam Sidi El Gouche, Debra Solomon,
Champagne no, socialism Yes.

Last week I received the very sad news that my dear friend, Sidi El Gouche, my Occitanian kitchen garden neighbour, has died. It has taken me a long time to get to the point that I could even write this memorial to him because I am just devastated that he is gone. He was a passionate and capable gardener, the deputé of our gardens, and to me, a cherished friend.

In Memoriam Sidi El Gouche, Debra Solomon,

Sidi El Gouche was
a warm and generous man,
a bestower of fig tree shade,
a distributer of local talk, beer and cigarettes,
a keeper of an open house.

In Memoriam Sidi El Gouche, Debra Solomon,

An indoor/outdoor bbq expert,
a hearty lunchtime chef in the dead of winter,
a summertime host of countless happy hours,

In Memoriam Sidi El Gouche, Debra Solomon,

A sprinkler of sea salt on cherry tomatoes,
a bbq’er of sardines, of chickens and merguez,
a mouse murderer,
afraid of snakes.

In Memoriam Sidi El Gouche, Debra Solomon,

A planter of peach trees and apricots,
a fig growing, fig sharing man,
a giver of fig trees and sweet figs piled high on plates to celebrate, anything.

A coriander specialist,
a ruthless weeder,
a collector and then crusher of bugs,
a harvester in every season except for winter, which he used for preparing the garden for spring,
an exemplary gardener, giving new meaning to the term, French Intensive.

C’est le moment.
C’est le moment.

In Memoriam Sidi El Gouche, Debra Solomon,

A climber of trees,
a chopper of wood and sticks for the bbq and staking up plants,
an overseeer of fires,
a sharpener of knives,
a fixer of my hoes and rakes and shovels,
a mighty swift digger of ditches,
an insightful consultant and irrigation expert,
a defender of our right to water, with the right amount of water pressure to fill our thirsty gardens.

In Memoriam Sidi El Gouche, Debra Solomon,

A diplomat between the rural French, the Berber and the Northern Import communities, holding frequent audience between factions in his cabane,
a somewhat traditional Muslim (Allah is Lucky) but,
a feminist in practice, especially concerning his own daughters,
a man who could really tell a story, but then ten times in 3 languages.

In Memoriam Sidi El Gouche, Debra Solomon,
An eater of baby grandson hands,

A grower of crispy lettuces in the shade,
a producer of sweet Cevenol onions and potatoes,
an agriculturalist if you will, he fed his 9 kids and many grandkids from his garden.

A really liberal user of chemical fertilizers,
a strewer of little blue pills on the land, but also,
an inadvertent defender of different ways of gardening, even though he called my mustard cover crop, ‘Mayonnaise’.

In Memoriam Sidi El Gouche, Debra Solomon,

A smile-wearing, sparkly-eyed, warm-hearted, open-armed giver of bear hugs Hallo Hallo Hallo! after many months of absence,

A feeler of biceps, inspector of callouses, and generous with compliments in the face of man-like feats of strength and stamina,
a man who understood the value of a good cup of mint tea at just the right moment,

An emotional giver of bear hugs Goodbye for now for months, Come back soon and, Insh’Allah till the next time, with promises to water my garden till I get back.

Sidi El Gouche, I had been planning on a long lifetime of gardening, with you always there, gardening with me.
I really, really miss you.

In Memoriam Sidi El Gouche, Debra Solomon,

debra at 12:49 | | post to


  1. Sorry to hear about the loss, sounds like a top bloke and it was a great tribute that you did, well done.
    Last photo looks like he did a really inspired version of watering the garden.

    Comment by Solange — February 16, 2010 @ 22:24

  2. ; ) That was the farmer flooding our land and Sidi El Gouche having a fit.

    But El Gouche did do a superior job of watering his garden - and mine.

    Comment by debra — February 17, 2010 @ 10:25

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