When I check my email I often am wading through dozens of junk emails. Then sometimes in the midst of a massive deleting spree I find one that catches my attention, and I’m never sure if it’s real, or if it’s an email from someone posing as someone else. That’s the story of this post. I woke up and scrolled through the emails in my phone that came in overnight (I know what a bad habit!) and I saw “Kitty Morse” in the subject line. “No,” I thought, “that’s not really an email from Kitty Morse contacting me,” and I almost hit delete. But curiosity got the best of me and I opened it. Low and behold – I was wrong – it really was Kitty Morse writing to me! I’ve written about my Paula Wolfert cookbooks, and I know I’ve mentioned Kitty a time or two but let’s recap. Kitty was born in Morocco to a French mom and British dad and moved to the US in the 1960’s. Her family has maintained their home, Dar Zitoun, since that time and Kitty has written extensively on Moroccan and North African cuisine. Her Cooking at the Kasbah: Recipes from my Moroccan Kitchen has been in my book shelf for years and I pine for a copy of The Scent of Orange Blossoms: Sephardic Cuisine from Morocco.
Today, she’s sharing an excerpt from her latest book, Mint Tea and Minarets which is part cookbook and part the sharing of the story of the home and area. Kitty was born in Casablanca and Dar Zitoun an hour south in Azemmour and is a home turned riad.
I’d already fallen in love with the hamlet’s name, the elision of its melodious syllables, with the first forming on my lips, the second and third gathering steam between throat and palate, and the fourth propelling itself gently from the tip of my tongue. Me-hi-ou-la. That none within my social circle could enlighten me as to its etymology was but a minor disappointment.
My father had never taken me to explore upriver, nor had he spoken of the now defunct auberge, the inn that once thrived above a stand of bulrushes in an idyllic valley located less than fifteen kilometers from the Azemmour ramparts.
Such an excursion would have required too many precious hours away from Dar Zitoun. Chafiq told of how he played soccer with his friends on a sliver of sand the locals referred to as “La Plage de Mehioula [Mehioula Beach].”
After a game, we’d go for a swim to cool off and then eat a couple of the oranges that rolled down the bank from the grove. The patrons of the auberge didn’t seem to mind.”Auberges, like the one at Mehioula, appealed to urban pieds-noirs, Europeans born and raised in North Africa, who followed French tradition by spending Sunday in the country. The establishments, with their red tiled roofs, expansive orchards, and lovingly tended vineyards, oozed Provençal charm.
As the years passed, I remembered French Moroccan inns less for their food than for their names: L’Auberge de la Forêt (Inn of the Forest), the more whimsical L’Auberge du Lièvre Volage (Inn of the Fickle Hare), and Le Sanglier Qui Fume (The Smoking Boar). The latter, in the High Atlas Mountains above Marrakech, was still the subject of international acclaim. Most, however, were but ephemeral features of the colonial era, and after Moroccan independence, were abandoned by their French proprietors. Chafiq hadn’t been sure the auberge of Mehioula was still in operation. Giving us directions was a challenge for Bouchaïb due to the dearth of road signs in the area, forcing him to dredge his memory for landmarks. “You’ll know you’re getting close when you reach the corn silo,” he said, referring to one of the beehive-shaped granaries unique to the region.
Our trip took an hour. The tertiary roads we followed were barely wide enough to accommodate our rented Renault subcompact. The rare bicyclist or horse-drawn wagon we encountered on the irregular tarmac had to give way as we approached, as we did when confronted with an oncoming grand taxi or truck; might made right, or rather, might made for right-of-way. We were forced to stop on several occasions to get independent confirmation of Bouchaïb’s directions, once from a group of old men who were passing the time in front of a quiet, country épicerie . . . Better yet, (one) informed us, one of his cronies happened to be going that way and would gladly ride along as our guide. We quickly agreed — before learning that the man in question was delivering a sheep to the organizer of an upcoming tribal festival. But we were already committed.
The shepherd, whose face was as weathered and brown as the earth he’d been sitting on, slid his hog-tied ewe across the seat before he himself climbed in . . . Transporting livestock was a first for us . . .In time, we could have adjusted to the smell of unwashed wool tinged with manure, but not on so short a run . . . The bleating cargo seemed as eager to reach its destination, as we were to deliver it. Its owner smiled and uttered a few words of Berber whenever I turned around . . . The last time he spoke up, it was in a tone so assertive that the meaning was clear. We pulled over.
The shepherd adjusted the hood of his burnoose, hauled the sheep from the car, and hoisted the animal onto his back.. . . He headed in the direction of a dozen women and children bent over at the waist cultivating corn. On a hillside above them was the silo Bouchaïb had described. I caught sight of a barely legible sign where the paving ended — “Mehioula.”
I let the name melt in my mouth like a puff of cotton candy . . .
Behold, a singular structure soars above the banks of the Oum er-Rbia, Mother of Spring River, within the ramparts of the 16thcentury medina of Azemmour — Dar Zitoun – “House of the Pasha.” Into her late father’s centuries-old riad (Moorish mansion) fifty miles south of her native Casablanca, Kitty Morse warmly coaxes you. Generations of cooks there sweeten the invitation. In the footfall of her deceased father, Kitty, an expert on Moroccan cuisine, uncovers the provenance of her culinary passion: Dar Zitoun was once a training venue for professional cooks. Having grown up in North Africa during the French Protectorate, a unique time in history, Kitty has a pied-noir’s rarified perspective. Her marathon quest for the riad’s title through Morocco’s Byzantine legal system helps build an appetite, as do the family recipes that accompany the tales just told. An amusing cast of characters brings to life the cultural mosaic that characterizes the northwest corner of Africa, Al Mahgreb Al Aqsa, the Land Where the Sun Sets.
Kitty is the author of ten cookbooks, five of them on the cuisine of Morocco and North Africa. Mint Tea and Minarets, was just awarded Best Arab Cuisine Book 2013 by the Gourmand World Cookbooks Awards. www.kittymorse.com. Excerpt from Mint Tea and Minarets: a banquet of Moroccan memories by Kitty Morse (La Caravane Publishing 2013) Photography Owen Morse. Content copyrighted. No reproduction without permission.
Earlier this month my mom and stepdad came to visit. As all good children do we jam-packed the schedule to squeeze every ounce out of their visit as possible. With our children being in school during their visit, illnesses, and a small rash of bad weather we didn’t even come close to doing everything we had hoped. But, we did get in some of the big experiences we were hoping for. This included a visit to the Sahara desert. Believe it or not, I was the only one who had ever been – even though MarocBaba has lived here his entire life he’d never gone. It took some persuading to get him on board. The question came up, should we take the kids or not? I said yes, he said no – I won! I knew this was one experience that had to happen.
There are a lot of people who have asked if they should do this with their kids, and what advice we would give so I hope to answer those questions. First, the issue of actually getting to the Sahara is important to consider. You can get there from Fez or Marrakech, but either way it’s a long trip. We left Marrakech, over the High Atlas Mountains, stopped in Ait Ben Haddou, Ouarzzazate, the Todra Gorges, and Dades Valley before reaching Merzouga for our desert experience. (I’ll be blogging about all those places in the weeks to come.) We left on Friday and spent that night in the Todra Gorge. Saturday afternoon we rode camels into the desert in Merzouga to our camp. Sunday morning we were up before the sunrise to ride the camels out and drive all the way back to Marrakech.
My first reflection was this; if your kids are not used to spending long periods of time in a car, this is going to be really difficult for you. My kids have spent days at a time on car rides, driving across the United States. When we were in the US it was normal to take a weekend trip 250+ miles to visit relatives. If you’re considering a Sahara visit you MUST take this into consideration. If you’re unsure how they will do, you will want to book a private tour that will allow you to stop as frequently as needed and will not put others on edge. Our tour was mixed, there was 12 of us altogether in a single minibus. (If you’re looking for a great company to help you arrange a private tour, I highly recommend Journey Beyond Travel). If you’re thinking you might just rent a car and head out alone, don’t. You absolutely should not ever go into the Sahara Desert without a guide. There are many logistics and difficult driving terrain to get to the Sahara, leave it to the experts and save yourself the stress and risk.
When you begin planning your trip there are some questions that you should take the time to ask and have answered by the tour operator;
- What is included in the quoted price? What is not included?
- Where will we be stopping including the name of any hotels or riads?
- If it is not a private tour, how many other people will be traveling together?
- Are there any stops that have additional tours or tips that I should expect to pay?
- What meals will be paid out of pocket and what’s the average cost?
- If I don’t want to eat at the locations stopped for meals, are there other options?
- What are the sleeping arrangements in the desert camp?
- What is the full schedule of the tour, including stops, and times to arrive and leave the desert camp?
- Will children ride on their own camel or ride with a parent?
- If you have any health issues, like a bad back (me!) ask if they have a back rest for the camel for added support.
Most companies are going to gloss over everything and give you the feeling that this is a luxury trip. In some instances, this may be true but you should assume it’s not. Also, like most things in Morocco price is not fixed. You will want to know all of the costs ahead of time so that you can choose the tour that makes the most sense for your family financially and logistically. Ask about different options and if you feel the price is too high you should push to get the best price possible.
After my observation about the length of time we spent in the car, my next observation was about activities. Essentially you’re driving 10+ hours to ride a camel for 1-2 hours, to tents in the sand. Yes, it’s amazing, but from a kid’s point of view there isn’t a whole lot to do. Electronics are going to die. I’ve got another post in the works that’s all about activities for kids while traveling that aren’t electronic. That being said you need to be prepared. If your kids aren’t the type to spend hours without being entertained, then plan accordingly. This can be an amazing experience, or a really trying one!
What happens when you get to your desert camp?
Well that depends on the tour you’re taking (be sure to refer back to the “questions to ask” section when booking your tour.) Our experience was basic. We got to the camp at sunset. The last bit was actually in the dark. We then dropped off our bags, and spent some time in a group tent with tables and candle light. Thankfully someone had a deck of cards, so some games were played. After an hour or so it was time for dinner. This was the worst part. Both times I’ve done a Sahara trip the food has been awful. Really awful. What we ate was essentially steamed vegetables and chicken in a tajine pot. Bad, bad, bad. It was followed by oranges. I get that we’re in the desert, but it’s a short 4×4 ride and some salt, pepper, and cumin go a long way. We ate it because there was nothing else to eat. My kids are very used to Moroccan food (or Moroccan-ish in this case) so they didn’t complain too much, except to say “amitou’s (aunties) is much better.” If your kids are picky be ready for very very limited options. Bring some food with you. I had packed an insulated lunch bag with nuts, dates, apricots, oranges, and some cookies (enough for all 6 of us to eat throughout the trip). Let me reiterate, bring some food with you!
After dinner we were brought outside to a fire where our guides played some traditional songs and everyone was given the chance to try and play too. Our guides were not too enthusiastic. They weren’t too thrilled about anything during our stay which put me off. Moroccans are notoriously hospitable and welcoming. While one of them was all of these things, the others were a bit disgruntled. At this point, I took K back to the tent and fell asleep. M, grandma, and grandpa went with the group and the guide for a walk where I heard they laid on a sand dune and looked at the stars. For me, seeing the stars over the Sahara is one of the most amazing things you’ll ever experience. I’m sad I missed it this time but glad they got the opportunity.
Our sleeping arrangement was in one big tent for six of us. There were mattresses on the ground and blankets. It was rustic. But, I slept. MarocBaba slept with his boots on “just in case.” The most dangerous thing we encountered were the camp cats who decided to fight sometime in the early morning on our roof. Sometime before the sun rose we were woken up without any clear reason why. I assumed it was to go and see the sunrise, as that is what happened the last time I’d taken a trip like this. Oh yes, we were going to see the sunrise, on our camels. This wasn’t clear the night before and the guides rudimentary English didn’t explain it to well either.
If you’re planning to go here are a few things you should take with;
- warm clothing including winter hats (yes this is the desert, yes is it is cold at night)
- a flashlight for each person
- long pants
- closed toed shoes
- hand sanitizer or wipes
- potentially a sleeping bag
- a scarf and/or hat for the sun and sand
- camera and a bag to keep it safe from sand
- a small backpack to carry the clothes you’ll need just for the desert portion of the trip
- games and/or toys that are not electronics
So there it is visiting the Sahara in a nutshell! If you’ve got specific questions leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to answer. Watch here for more posts on the stops we made on our way to the Sahara and non-electronic kids activities in the next few weeks!Read more
My fellow Multicultural Kid Bloggers and I are doing a fun and interactive blog post today that is reminiscent of telephone tag. Here’s how it works. Each blogger asks another a question – this time we’re focusing on travel with kids – and that blogger answers in a video and asks the next person a question. No matter where you start, you’ll be able to find a link to the video asking the question and responding. Sounds fun right? Best part for me? I get to see the lovely faces and voices behind my blogger friends.
Mari of Inspired by Family asked me a question – here’s my answer!
Now it’s my turn. Click over to Cordelia of Multilingual Mama to find out how she answered my question!Read more
The melting pot of America is home to people from every country on Earth. Where I grew up, Italian, English, and Finnish immigrants made up the majority of the population. I can remember a billboard that was up every year before Christmas. It read;
Buon Natale (Italian)
Hyvää Joulua (Finnish)
Yes, the Upper Peninsula was lacking in diversity when it came to people of color but it didn’t lack ethnic diversity. In the early 1960’s a census record indicated that more than 25% of the population was either first or second generation Finnish immigrants. It is the one area of the US that has the largest concentration of Finns outside of Finland. And, they are proud. Being Finnish is a badge of honor. I am not Finnish but growing up in this environment, some of it just seeps into your skin. When MarocBaba and I went to Finland last month I was anxious to see what all the fuss was about. I knew some Finnish words having heard the language growing up, knew the food, and while some people think of Finnish people as reserved and cold I found nothing unusual about their demeanor.
At the first smattering of Finnish I heard, it felt like a hello from an old friend. Every week our local TV station played Suomi Kutsuu or “Finland Calling” hosted by Carl Pellonpaa – who also served as the yearly emcee for the annual ski jumping tournament. I have to come clean, we used to make fun of Carl. For young American kids the show was a funny throw back. But now as an adult I admire him for working to retain the language and culture in an environment that is not friendly to multiculturalism. Finland Calling is the longest running foreign language program on syndicated TV. Each week Carl would have guests to talk about Finland or something related to Finnish culture. I usually switched it off but when we were at our camp and there were only 3 channels to choose from, sometimes we would watch. If not for Carl and this show, I probably would not have ever considered applying for the Nordic Blogger’s Experience and would have missed experiencing Finland.
For many Finnish people I knew, making a trip back to the homeland, was a pilgrimage. They yearned to make the trip, saving for years to make it a reality. So what was it that made them want to go back? Maybe just the general pull all immigrant populations face – wanting to go home, to feel a part of their identity. In some ways I think this is a uniquely American feeling. Most of us grew up on stories of “the homeland” and a sense that the United States wasn’t home. Sure, most immigrants are proud Americans but they yearn for a connection to their past. In doing some reading and research I also discovered that, not unlike other ethnic groups, Finns were marginalized when they immigrated to the US. The “Yooper” accent I worked years to rid myself of traces back to the Finnish language influence in the region. This accent, even now, is seen as a negative. Finns weren’t considered a part of the European family when they arrived, instead grouped with Russian and Asiatic peoples.
MarocBaba and I attended a pre-conference tour of the city of Porvoo, located about 50km from Helsinki. Immediately it felt like home – in a very odd way. When we took a tour of the old town I scratched my head and couldn’t shake the feeling that I was walking through a town from my childhood, but I was on the other side of the world. Then I wondered why Upper Michigan’s Finns needed to go to Finland when essentially the UP must have been cookie cut out of Finland and dropped in North America. From the trees, to the buildings, the food, activities, and the cold – all so eerily familiar.
I hadn’t really realized how far into my psyche and upbringing Finnish culture and tradition had gone. Finns are crazy about their sauna baths and ice swimming. I knew of both these practices growing up. But, it was in Porvoo that I actually faced the ice swim. There was not a snowballs chance in hell that MarocBaba was going to try ice swimming. Frankly, I wasn’t going to either. It’s something I’d spent all my life avoiding so why start now? But, that’s exactly why I had to do it. If not now then when? I knew that this was probably my only chance.
There’s an ice swimming club in Porvoo and it’s members welcomed us so warmly. Their enthusiasm was what made me do it. The men and women reminded me so much of the people I grew up with and I knew that although reserved on the outside, inside they have so much pride and love of tradition. I felt like participating was a way to show them, I respect you and your traditions and I’m willing to give it a try. The details; it was -18C outside when we were going swimming and the water was about 0C. Each of us wore our bathing suits, a pair of water shoes, gloves, and our hat. In a pond a hole is cut and a pump keeps the water moving so it stays open when it should freeze over. There’s a jetty that goes out across the ice and a ladder to walk down into the water. Hard core ice swimmers come a few times a week (or even daily) to take a quick dip. Usually only a minute or two to swim around the circle. For my trip in, I turned around, walked down the ladder, thought of anything else and submerged myself (not my head!) and then raced back up. The water really was warmer than the air and it did give quite the rush. When walking back to the heated changing shelter, it felt like a million icicles were on my feet and legs! Would I do it daily? No. I probably wouldn’t make it a habit, but it was a great experience.
There’s so many more small nuances and experiences that made a connection between my past and my travel experience in Porvoo, and all . of Finland. I hope to convey them eventually. I’m going to leave this post with a Toivo and Aino joke. Toivo and Aino are Finnish. In Upper Michigan these types of jokes are common and they usually bring in aspects of ethnic culture in the region. Some might call them “stupid” humor but to me they are so familiar and represent the people and characters around me as I grew up.
An Italian, a Chippewa Indian, and Toivo were hunting together in the Porkies (Porcupine Mountains) and got lost. After many hours of wandering around trying to find their way back to camp, a genie appeared and said he would grant them each a wish. The Italian answered, “I wish I was back in Kingsford with my family”. Poof! He was gone. The Chippewa said,”I wish I was back in Baraga with my tribe”. Poof! He was gone. The genie turned to Toivo and asked him what his wish was. Toivo thought about it for a minute and said, “Boy, I really miss those guys, I wish they were back here with me”.
I visited Porvoo as a part of Nordic Bloggers’ Experience a sponsored trip for travel bloggers. Visit Porvoo arranged and provided trip accommodations and experiences while in Porvoo. All opinions are my own.
Photo credit for ice swimming shots to: Kristoffer ÅbergRead more
Today’s world meals journey takes us to Europe. Ilze of Let the Journey Begin is sharing meals in her family. She estimates they spend about 10 Euro a day. Find out more about Ilze, her multicultural family and what they eat!
First a little background: my husband and I live in Hamburg, Germany (although I originally come from Latvia) and are currently expecting our first child. So what I’ll describe is food for two grown-ups as the baby gets its food supply from me and (if all goes well) will continue to do so exclusively until its around 6 months old. I generally work from home while my hubby is currently doing a reeducation program and is usually home by 5pm. That said, yesterday he finished early so we could have a light lunch and an early dinner.
On a typical day my hubby has some cereal or müsli for breakfast, skips lunch and has a nice big dinner. Meanwhile, because of the different vitamin supplements that I have to take in the morning, I have two breakfasts – I start with two slices of bread with cheese, meat and/or jam and herb tea, then some 3 hours later I have a second breakfast of cereal or müsli and/or yogurt and green or black tea (dairy and caffeine are not allowed to be used within a few hours of taking iron supplements, hence the division). I have another light meal in the afternoon, typically some oatmeal porridge or a smoothie, e.g., banana and red fruit with milk. Our big meal of the day is dinner which usually is a combination of three types of ingredients: first there’s a base of potatoes, pasta or rice, on top of that some kind of meat or, less frequently, fish, and to it comes a vegetable side dish. If we’re cooking a stew or a soup all of these things come in the pot together A few hours after dinner we might have some sweet snack like chocolate or cookies with tea.
Our food yesterday:
Breakfast: none for my hubby as he was running late for an exam, I had two pieces of toast with cheese and jam and a big mug of tea, then headed out to my weekly birth class session.
Lunch: we were both home around 1pm and each had a bowl of müsli and cereal mix with raspberries and milk, followed by tea and pastries.
Dinner: around 5pm we started cooking our big meal of the day. We had decided to make a traditional North German food that perfectly suits the winter weather here: Labskaus. Labskaus (at least in our version) is made of mashed potatoes mixed with corned beef, onions, pickles and pickled beetroot that have all been slightly fried, some liquid from the beetroot and pickle jars is mixed in to give Labskaus its typical color and taste. To it you eat fried egg, herring (we had pickled fried herring), and can add some more pickles and beetroot as side dishes. First time I heard this recipe I had difficulty to imagine how this food can taste good but, believe me, it’s truly tasty
Thanks so much for sharing Ilza!! Your turn – what’s a typical food day in your house and what does it cost?Read more
What better way to celebrate love than by giving away money? We’re celebrating this year by doing a giveaway sponsored by some of the Multicultural Kid Bloggers from around the world. Because we have so many international members we wanted to do something that would allow anyone to win. So to show our love to you, our readers, we decided cash was the best gift.
This Valentine’s Day, I’m happy to have a family that loves me, and the ability to spend time with them. I’m also happy everyday that my kids are getting the opportunity to develop their language skills. Although we’re a bit out of touch with American popular culture here, the Coca Cola ad that aired during the Superbowl certainly caused some stir. In response, my friend Stephanie of InCulture Parent gathered a bunch of multicultural kids who are all biligual (or more!) to share their pride in the languages they speak and that they’re American. You can read the post, then take a peek at the video!
If you would like to enter the giveaway, you just need to follow the directions on the Rafflecopter giveaway located below. The first and only required entry is to leave a blog post comment answer the question in the box. For additional entries, like the sponsoring bloggers pages on Facebook, follow on Twitter, or Pinterest. You’ll see specific instructions on the Rafflecopter form – plus easy ways to complete the entry.
Make sure to visit the sponsoring bloggers for great information about raising multicultural families!
- Creative World of Varya
- Kids Yoga Stories
- All Done Monkey
- Chasing the Donkey
- Be Bilingual
- European Mama
- Trilingual Mama
- Never A Dull Day in Poland
- Afterschool for Smarty Pants
- Africa to America
- Finding Dutchland
- InCulture Parent
- Miss Panda Chinese
Enter the giveaway!Read more
As a child, each Valentine’s Day my mom would make my sister and I something special for breakfast, like heart shaped pancakes or pink milik and had always put together a big Valentine gift. It wasn’t something fancy, not even a toy but usually some of our favorite candy and a card letting us know how much she and I my dad loved us. It was always my favorite Valentine. School parties were fun and writing out Valentine’s to friends was always a process I had to start weeks before; selecting just the right cards, picking the best candy to attach, perfect. I have to say as a mom I fail miserably in this category. I’m just not very good with details. I can make my kids delicious things to eat but the rest of it, not so much.
My kids love muffins and so I have been playing with different techniques, ingredients, and sizes. So far, I haven’t made a batch that they disliked – these are no different.
Our family in 2005 (top) and 2014 (bottom)
- • 2 cups all purpose flour
- • 2 tsp baking soda
- • ¼ cup oil
- • ¼ cup Greek yogurt
- • ½ cup sugar
- • ¾ cup milk
- • 1 egg
- • 1 tsp vanilla extract
- • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
- 1 cup strawberries, tops removed
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In a large bowl mix together flour, baking soda, and sugar.
- Whisk, oil, greek yogurt, milk, egg, and vanilla extract and combine with dry ingredients.
- In a pan add strawberries,1 Tbsp sugar, and 1/4 cup water.
- Heat on low until the strawberries begin so soften and fall apart. You can leave them in pieces if you like chunks, or blend to a liquid.
- Blend strawberries into batter.
- Grease muffin tins or line with parchment paper and fill each ½ way with batter.
- Roughly chop hazelnuts and sprinkle the nuts onto the tops of the muffin batter.
- Bake for 25min – 30 minutes until a knife comes out clean.
For dinner, we had rice, lemon chicken and a salad. We don’t eat meat every day- often times it’s legumes and rice, but we do have meat 2-3 times a week. We always, always have a salad- usually spinach and other veggies with olive oil, lime juice and salt. Yum!
Not quite hamburgers and fries is it? Thanks so much for sharing Becky! Our next stop takes us back to Germany where we’ll see means from a Latvian/German family. See you then!Read more