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More than Just a Meal

My Scholarship entry - Understanding a Culture through Food

WORLDWIDE | Tuesday, 24 April 2012 | Views [572] | Scholarship Entry

As I walk through the medina, otherwise known as the old city, in Rabat, I am on the lookout for a vendor with his heaps of spices, from whom I can buy what I need to make tajine for tonight’s dinner. I find him in his little booth and I ask him for the spices for a tajine, s´il vous plaÎt. He begins to gather them onto a piece of white paper, making a colorful little mound of powders on the paper. To top it off, he adds just a pinch of saffron.
Next I stop to buy the vegetables from a woman in the medina, and lastly, hobz, the Arabic word for bread. It’s round and hearty and delicious, and I buy eight, because in addition to being a meal accompaniment it is also our silverware. I arrive home and we begin to cook, Moroccans, North Americans, French, and Polish, ready to participate in the preparation of the meal. People take charge of different tasks; washing, peeling, slicing, chopping.
Then my friend Rachid, our expert cook, heats a bit of olive oil on the gas stove, and begins to layer the vegetables. First, the onions and carrots mixed together at the bottom; next, a couple layers of potatoes, then tomatoes, then zucchini, and finally, green pepper. The spices are slowly mixed in through the layering process.
When it is ready, Rachid brings out the delicious, spicy, steaming tajine and sets it in the middle of the table. We say bon appetit and hamdullah, and dig in all together, breaking off pieces of bread to gather a bite of the delicious vegetables. I love the Moroccan custom of communal eating, everyone from the same dish, with our hands instead of silverware. Not only does it make us feel closer together, but it means fewer dishes to wash at the end of the meal as well! After dinner, my friend Hicham offers me some grapes from the kitchen. Even though I am full, I take a few, because in Morocco, when someone offers you food, you never refuse. In this country, to offer food is to offer sustenance, protection; it’s about much more than just being polite.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2012

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