Monday, July 27, 2009

The Beginning

Well, my friends, the obvious place to begin is Morocco. Morocco was the last country in which I lived before returning to the US. I lived in Oujda and Zaio, both in the Northeast and not very far from the Mediterranean coastline. Oujda, a fairly big city where University Mohamed I is located. Zaio could not be more different. Zaio, a small town located in the Rif section of the Atlas Mountains with less mix of Arabic and Indigenous peoples; Westerners like to call Berbers. Oujda being more Arabic. I will explain the genesis of the word Berber in another time.

If you think that preserved lemons, cinnamon and olive oil are staples in Moroccan cooking, think again. It is a rare Moroccan who can afford the dark green briny olive oil and things such as preserved lemons and sweet warm spices are extremely regional. For preserved lemons think Marakech and the Western Sahara where refrigeration used to be, and in many cases still is, a luxury.

You'd need to be staying at a tourist hotel such as The Hilton Casablanca to be fed what is known as Court Food; the old days food of the wealthy. If you are eating there then you're not tasting the real Morocco. The simple every day meals laid upon the tables of Moroccan households and tiny ''hole in the wall'' local's eateries.

Yes, this photo is of me with a raging sinus infection and having colored my hair auburn. I had colored my hair in England before moving to Morocco and this is of me preparing my first meal, in my first Moroccan house, wearing the first Moroccan house dress ever given to me by the mother of a friend in Oujda. This would have been 2004 near the end of April as I arrived on April 8, 2004.

The meal was a lamb tagine cooked in a pressure cooker as all Moroccan households do nowadays. A tagine is rarely, if ever, cooked IN a tagine any longer. There were also many side salads (slatas) and vegetables such as roasted peppers (fil fil), eggplant (braniya) cooked with cumin, the ever present bread (khoubz) as a utensil and always sauce tomatish as a condiment. Fruit, soda and bottled water are always at the table as well. All is served on communal platters and a meal is more than mere food. It speaks to culture and where one comes from.

Check in next time for a recipe!


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