Moroccan food is not like anything I’ve ever tasted before. There’s a very unique combination of spices that come standard in a lot of the dishes. I had originally assumed the food would be very spicy, like hot pepper on everything kind of spicy. As it turns out, most foods are very mild, but very flavorful and savory. My host family hires a girl named Fatima to help in the kitchen, and I’ve tried to ask her about the ingredients. However, she doesn’t speak English, and I never learned the names of spices in French, so that conversation didn’t go very far. Although she did let me watch her make tea.
Anyone who’s been to Morocco can tell you about the tea. It’s probably the sweetest thing I’ve ever tasted in my life, and it was almost too much for me when I first had it. I now have it at least twice a day. Into the teapot goes dried tea leaves. It didn’t smell like the kind of black tea I’m used to, so I asked what kind of plant it was from. Fatima just looked at me and told me it was tea, so that’s as far as that inquiry went. She then added fresh, whole mint leaves. At this point, I wanted to tell Fatima that I make tea with mint in it at home too, but I didn’t know the word for ‘mint’ in French. A lot of our conversations consist of pointing and saying “that thing”. After the tea and mint came to a boil, Fatima dropped in two sugar cubes. And by ‘cubes’ I mean ‘bricks’. I’m not kidding; they’re the size of those thick 2006 Nokias. It’s not a particularly large teapot either. Fatima saw my shocked face and laughed, saying, “Just a little bit”.
Breakfast consists of tea or coffee, bread, cheese, and jam. On the weekends there’s also eggs and milwii; a delicious flaky kind of pastry bread. Lunch is served around one, and is always a hot lunch. Cold sandwiches are not really a thing here. There usually is salad, but salad here is more like rice or potato with some cucumber and mayo. Sometimes there’s tuna on it, and there’s no lettuce at all. Lunch comes in a tangine; a large, clay dish about a foot and a half in diameter used to cook whole meals it. I’ve seen Fatima do it; prepare the meat and veggies, place the raw meat in the middle with the veggies strategically placed around it, put on the teepee-like lid, and wait for a few hours. When it’s ready, the tangine can keep the food piping hot for so long.
Since dinner doesn’t happen until about nine at night, there’s a meal around four, called tea time. It’s very similar to breakfast. There’s tea (of course), bread, and cakes or pastries. It’s a very carb-heavy culture. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I eat on average two and a half loaves of bread a day. Dinner is very similar to lunch, with a hot meal usually coming in a tangine. I forgot to mention before that we all eat from the tangine; it’s not often we have individual plates. Also, there aren’t usually forks. In place of that, you rip off a bite-sized piece of bread from your loaf, hold it with your first three fingers on your right hand, and pick up food from the tangine with the bread. Being left-handed, this was slow-going at first. I knew they wouldn’t mind if I ate lefty; they’ve had American students living with them before and know we aren’t always going to do everything correctly. But I really wanted to try. Dessert is often whatever fruit is in season. When I came to Morocco in August, it was mostly peaches and plums. Not it’s clementines and apples. Before I had my first meal in Morocco, I was told that I should wash my hands before and after I eat. I thought it was a little excessive, but it makes sense when you eat saucy foods with your hands.
I was going to write about couscous in this post as well, but this one got kind of long so I’ll just write a separate one. Stay tuned!
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<p>Hi! I'm Cayt and I study anthropology and French at Penn State. I'm studying abroad to further my education and I'm here to share my experiences with anyone who wants to read them.</p>