Moroccan Food Culture by Isabel Spence

The proverbial clock ticks down and January draws to an end, I’m feeling very comfortable in Morocco and so I’ve started having some time to look around a bit. I’m stretching my boundaries in Agdal and am fascinated by my classes. Last weekend, I trekked with some other program participants to Asilah, a beach town in the North. With that trip successfully under my belt, I’m starting to get an idea of all the different treats one can put in their stomach while in Morocco.

Food is a precious commodity everywhere and I’ve come to appreciate some produce here as opposed to in the states.  First of all: mint tea. As many of my friends from home know, I’m a tea fanatic. Tea here is primarily mint and is heavily sweetened. It’s really yummy and I want to learn how to make it! The traditional way to serve Moroccan tea is to lift up the teakettle as you pour the tea, a skill I have yet to possess, though I am trying! Another delicious treat is all the super fresh and flavorful fruits. Clementines and oranges here pop with decadent sweetness and a clean citrus sting. They also grow everywhere and can be found in ruins and city streets alike! I honestly can’t get enough of them; I’m not looking forward to when they are out of season, which one of my professors told me will be fairly soon.

A lone orange grows on a tree in the ruins of Chellah, outside Rabat.

A lone orange grows on a tree in the ruins of Chellah, outside Rabat.

Thirdly, I often finding myself eating something random and just thinking how much more delicious it is here than in the US, this has to do with the fact that everything here is grown/produced locally and not in greenhouses. For example: eggs are fantastic here. I have scrambled eggs for breakfast on the weekends and special occasions with my host family and they are so great every time! I also love having an omelet for any meal, as the eggs are just that delicious. There is also an international flavor to Moroccan food; in Rabat it is not rare to find French bakeries selling everything from croissants to crepes. I even ate churros from a small bakery in Asilah- reflective of Spain’s influence on Northern Morocco.

Then of course, there are the amazing traditional Moroccan meals! Tajine is the name of a hearty stew and also the clay basin/lid it is cooked in.  Delicious vegetables are cooked in a tajine until they are super soft and their flavors have melded. Normally there are potatoes, carrots, squash, tomatoes and green beans as well as a couple olives for flavor. For those who so desire, there is also typically some meat in the middle. I’ve also had a really delicious completely lentil tajine that was super satisfying and savory.

Vegetarian tajine! Yummy in my tummy.

Vegetarian tajine! Yummy in my tummy.

Another soup that is exclusive to Morocco is that of Harira. Harira is a vegetarian soup that is tomato based and is flavored with chickpeas and other vegetables. Though it is light it is very filling. I’m always happy to see we are eating Harira for dinner! I’ve learned in my Contemporary Moroccan Culture class that there is a tradition during Ramadan that on the first night everyone wants to ensure that their Harira is perfectly delicious- a tradition carried out as it is believed good Harira on the first night will ensure its continued yumminess throughout the month.

Friday is a big day for eating in Morocco. First of all, in Islam, Friday or يوم الجمعة is the holy day and therefore gets special recognition with a special meal. This meal is couscous, which is very fine and fluffy in Morocco. This couscous is served for lunch and is also paired with vegetables and meat. Served on the side, there is a sweet yet savory topping called Tfaya that is composed of caramelized onions and raisins. To top off this special meal is a smoothie like fermented milk drink. The flavor is potent and though it is not for everyone, I enjoyed sipping away at it last Friday as I people watched and discussed American music with my host family.

Another thing: portion sizes are huge. This couscous plate was for 5 people and we weren’t able to finish!

Another thing: portion sizes are huge. This couscous plate was for 5 people and we weren’t able to finish!

Not only is the food here delicious but it is also a great way to bond with the Moroccan people. I love talking with waiters in restaurants and delight when they will reply to me in Arabic. I’ve also already made an enchilada dinner for my host family, of which I believe they enjoyed! They enthusiastically told me about how their last host daughters made them pancakes, so now that is definitely on my to-do list. There is a simple and divine enjoyment in being able to sit back, eat, and talk with new friends and new family. Is there anything more universal than breaking bread with others to show your love and respect for them? I’m finding this true in Morocco and savoring every moment of it!

I love olives. Looks like I came to the right place!

I love olives. Looks like I came to the right place!

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Filed under Area & Arabic Language Studies, Isabel Spence, Morocco, Rabat

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