I am very excited to write this entry because it’s about one of my favorite subjects and things….FOOD! As many of you know I am very conscious of what I eat, reading labels, researching food additives, knowing the origin of my food and mostly researching huge agri-giants like Monsanto. It’s true that Monsanto and other agri-giants do sell here in Morocco, sadly enough. However in the area that I’m in the farmers cannot afford to buy their toxic GMO seeds nor can they afford their harmful pesticides, such as Roundup. This is a win win situation for all and it excites me to know that all of the wheat that is used to make the bread I eat here at home is completely 100% natural as well as the vegetables I’m eating. My mother in law, Zahre, even saves the bread rinds that we don’t eat and gives them back to Mbareks uncle at the farm for feed for the animals. Zahre takes the wheat, washes it then drys it outside. Mbarek just called and told me to go tell her “Stah”, which means the rain is coming get the wheat inside. So here she is outside scooping the wheat. I asked her if she wanted help but she won’t let me help. I wish she would at 79 she’s been doing this all her life and she has a system, any help would screw it all up. I’m not gonna take no for an answer though. I’ll let her scoop but I’ll bring in the rug and the bag. Is a matter of fact many of the animals on the farms here eat the left over food that people don’t eat. It’s amazing how the cycle of food goes full circle. There is very little food waste, even the cores of the apples are saved for the farm animals and orange rinds are used for room deodorizers, as well as to keep the insects away. Now I cant’ say that all families are like mine but it makes me feel good to know that there is little food waste. To be honest there is little waste at all even in solid goods. The trash cans we have a very small and we only fill one up once a week. I however have more trash than anyone in the household including Mbarek. How could that be? I attribute it to being American.
We have one grocery store here and it’s called the Carrefour market. it’s a typical grocery that is based out of France. All of the products that I’ve found there are mainly made in Morocco but there are French and Belgian products as well. Anytime you see a UPC code starting with 611 you know that the item was made in Morocco. I’ve found that at the local Bodegas there are many food items made in Morocco. There are few items that you buy in a can. I know this is a change for me because everything we buy in the US is normally in a can of some kind. You can buy things in a can here but they are more expensive than buying them fresh on the streets. Mainly the items at the grocery that are in a can are things like vegetables, the ones not in season. There are no pre-made soups on the shelves. You don’t just go and pick up Campbells Chunky soup..lol. there are no mini-raviolis or spahetti o’s on the shelves. Mostly what you find other than vegetables is canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and pasta sauce. Pasta sauce here is expensive! For a small jar of pasta sauce it’s $3.00. This is the time when I wished my mother would have made this from scratch so I could have learned. Anyone with a good sauce recipe hit me up I can use it.
Taking about making things from scratch…. you have to make all of your cooking powders from scratch here. When you go to the store you can find garlic powder, salt and pepper. There are some kinds of other powders but only a couple, it’s not like in Walmart or Kroger where you have a whole 1/2 an isle of seasonings. You must buy all of your things from the Souk. (A souq or souk (Arabic: سوق, Hindi: सूक Hebrew: שוק sūq, also spelled shuk, shooq, soq, souk, esouk, suk, sooq, souq, or suq) is an open-air marketplace or commercial quarter in Western Asian and North African cities. The equivalentPersian term is “bazaar“.) The Souk is where we buy all of our vegetables kind of like our Farmers Markets in the US. The one thing that is different from the farmer’s markets and the Souk is that the Souk is open every day from sunrise to late in the night. There is always a wonderful selection of fresh vegetables, meats, fruits, candy, baked goods, even shoes and clothes can be found at the souk. One of the most wonderful things I’ve had here is the fresh peanuts that have been roasted and salted. They make this wonderful pastry with this peanut paste and honey wrapped in a hard philo dough. It’s wonderful. With all of the sugar here you’d expect the pastries to be very sweet but they aren’t. They are rather mild in sugar and many of them are made with honey. Here are some photos of the souk, I know everyone is like post photos post photos.. so here they are.
Many of you have asked about the tajine, the cone shaped pottery that I’ve posted photos of. Well the idea of it is to cook a one pot meal. Morocco has bath houses where you can go to take a bath since, here in Khemisset many do not have hot running water. People will go to the bath houses to bathe and then sit in the sauna. Many times the coals from the sauna are used to cook the tajine.
My sister in law, Habiba, makes many things using the tajine. However she uses gas from the stove to cook the food. She makes amazing things like this spicy tomato turkey and you basically eat it with bread and your hands. The only time you use an eating utinsle is when you eat soup (Sharba). There is hardly ever a need for a fork. I however still eat with my spoon and fork because eating your food with your hands and the bread is an art that I have not yet mastered. Mbarek takes his bread in his right hand and manages to pinch off a piece with one hand then mash and scoop the food with it. I just can’t do it without covering myself in a towel because I manage to get the shit everywhere.
Tea is another thing that is huge here. Just like in England you take time out to have tea and rest. The tea is loose leaf and is made with sugar, a sweet hot tea. If you’ve ever seen the people pouring tea way up from the cup, the long pour, they do it to cool the tea so that it’s drinkable. My mother will love it here because all of the food is served scorching hot.
Here are some photos of the food I’ve had since I’ve been here…
And as you’d guess….. it’s all gone!
The fruit here is amazing and it’s winter here. There hasn’t been much rain this year but we still have oranges.
The first night I got here we stopped at a restaurant and got a turkey sandwich with french fries. Two turkey sandwiches and fries was $3.00. Most of the vegetables are very very cheap. We bought a kilo of 4 kinds of peppers, mint, potatoes, carrots, onions, oranges, olives, and some other things for less than $10.00. For those who don’t know a kilo is 2.2 pounds. So that was alot of food. What is expensive here are things like Pringles, chips, and cheese. For a small block of mozarella it’s about $4.00 so we try not to buy much of that but pizza is hard for me to do without. The pringles that I bought were $3.00 for one can. Holy shit I couldn’t believe it but I just had to have them. I’ve managed to find tortilla chips and for a small bag, not the family size, it was $1.79. Anything in a can is expensive. Tomato paste is $0.50 in the can and well canned corn for the small can not even 12 oz is about $0.70. So you see why we won’t be eating out of a can here. My next venture will be learning how to make my own spices. Powdered garlic and onion. We went to the Souk and asked the spice man if he had powdered garlic and onion, he looked at us and said we only have natural things here. LOL well it is natural I’m thinking. No wonder I see little chop chop grinders and mortar and pestals here, BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO MAKE YOUR OWN! LOL… So I’ve cooked some things in the small kitchen in our room. I’ve made turkey burgers, stuffed mushrooms, roasted vegetables, and fried chicken. The fried chicken was a disaster. We stopped at the chicken store and bought a chicken, a fresh one.
I brought it home after having a traumatic experience of hearing is squeal and I thought damn I’ve gotta eat this thing now. I am seriously consider becoming vegetarian again I swear. So I get this chicken home in the bag after the butcher had done his job and then I go to fry it. Everything seemed normal and it smelled wonderful but when we bit into it it was the toughest piece of meat I’d ever tasted. I can say after all of that and it being the worst dinner I’ve ever made I think I will stick to what I know best and not fry chicken here. Could it have been something to do with the fact that it was so fresh? I think one of the factors was that I don’t have a cast iron skillet to fry the bird in. So last night I made chili with ground turkey. I thought it was wonderful but when Mbarek and Habiba tried it they almost died. I suppose living in the land of enchantment with all the firey hot green chile I have gotten so use to eating hot things. It’s like I told Mbarek this is a learning experience for us both. We are learning what each others likes and dislikes, it’s frustrating and funny at the same time. I fixed macaroni and cheese from scratch the other night and he went wild. He had never had it before and by the time he was finished eating he had it all over his face. I made my homemade cheesy potato soup and he went wild over that too. It’s all trial and error but so far it’s all much fun and delicious. I know many of you are wondering how I met him. Well I’m going to talk about that in my next post. It’s time for a tell all on that subject.
OH OH I can’t forget the other kind of food they have here….