The Separation of Fork and Plate

A month and a day have passed since I arrived in Morocco and I at last feel sufficiently prepared to write the proverbial food post.

But to really do justice to the culinary diversity of Morocco, you’ll have to help me out and use your imagination. Now close your eyes and picture piles of brightly colored spices, smell the overpowering scent of mint, and see enormous cow heads steaming under plastic wrap in a narrow medina street. As you thread through people, bicycles, and rather reckless motorcyclists, imagine women standing under large umbrellas selling what appear to be giant-sized pancakes, except that the upper side is roughly the texture of Raggedy Anne’s yarn hair. And make sure you dodge the guy selling undergarments next to the baker’s shop.

Are you still focusing? Good, because now you need to imagine that it’s a Friday afternoon and you’re just sitting down the Friday Couscous for lunch. This admirable tradition (to the joy of all students) appears to be common to almost every Moroccan household. Couscous is made and vegetables (commonly onions, cabbage, carrots, and squash) are slow-cooked in a broth and then piled on. If you’re lucky, chicken, beef, or lamb may also be involved. Meals are usually served in large dishes and everyone, after conscientiously washing their hands, uses pieces of bread or their hand to scoop up their food. Fruit, rather than a breakfast food, is considered to be desert; in fact, in Moroccan Arabic, deseer means fruit.

Exotic, right? Sufficiently tantalizing, charming, and intriguing? Awesome… Now let’s talk about what I actually eat here:


The post should really end there, but your imagination, after the afore-described treats, might be a bit miffed at that. So conjure up one more mental image:

Picture a table set for dinner. What do you see? A plate, a fork (three if you’re fancy), a spoon, maybe a napkin or two… In short you see a lot of utensils that are essentially bothersome. After all—you’ve got to wash them! Now sweep all that aside, separating fork from plate and spoon from bowl, and replace it all with BREAD.

Breakfast is traditionally bread. Lunch at school is a sandwich (often stuffed with French fries, another ubiquitous food item). Tea time typically consists of cookies and mint tea. Dinner is rather more varied, though at my home it usually involves French fries, bread, and fruit. In short, Morocco is a splendid country… as long as you’re not diabetic.