There are thousands of American expats around the world and I love sharing their stories! Caity studied in London during university and has decided to take the plunge and become a full-time expat. If you’re thinking about making the move or you’re already an expat, her post shines light into the desire to do it and the sometimes difficult things you may have to hear when you go public with your dream.
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.
- 53If there is one European power who has made an indelible mark on Morocco it is France. Beginning in the 15th century the Portuguese invaded and controlled the Atlantic coast but made no inroads to the country. As early as the 1830's France expressed and began exercising interests in Morocco. Throughout the 19th century…
- 44It's that time of year when round-up posts are aplenty. Not being one to want to be left out, I'm offering you my favorite cookbooks from 2012. I have a bit of a cookbook problem, just ask my husband. Whenever a box turns up that looks like it might contain a book I hear, "another…
- 41In the spirit of giving back I'm going to be sharing in the next weeks some of my very favorite things. I'm really addicted to Pinterest and have nearly 1,000 pins on last check. (It's really amazing how fast those pins add up!) Today I'm sharing some of my favorite Moroccan inspired pins - hope…
- 40Tomorrow is the biggest shopping day of the year in the United States. For those of you who don't know, "Black Friday" as it's called happens the day following Thanksgiving and is considered the start of the Christmas shopping season. Many people wake up at obscenely early hours to go shopping for the "best" deals.…
Today’s guest post comes from Julie of Open Wide the World. I met Julie through an online group I’m a part of for multicultural bloggers. Her blog is currently on hiatus but there’s so many great resources and stories to discover! You can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest. I hope you’ll enjoy this story and the experience of Julie’s family.
“Food is the great unifier.” Isn’t that an expression somewhere? Never have I experienced the unitive power of food more evidently than in the South of France. Back in the early 90s, tensions between the French and North Africans, at least in Midi (a.k.a. Mediterranean France), were running somewhere just below Meursualt levels (remember Meursault? the main character of Albert Camus’ l’Étranger), and my city, having a high North African population, was no exception. In almost every neighborhood, tension between the groups was palpable.
|typical architecture of the Midi-Pyrénées , France (wikimedia commons)|
But there was one quartier (neighborhood) that was different. This particular part of the city was home to students, artists, travelers, and various world citizens who were going it alone for a phase. Without the security and comfort of being surrounded by their own peer and culture groups, les voisins (the neighbors) in this quartier seemed to live outside of the judgements and tensions, and really just get along. Beyond merely getting along, in fact, ces voisins-là (these particular neighbors) seemed to enjoy one another’s differences, and in particular, one another’s cuisine of heritage. In the midst of the surrounding tensions, this neighborhood was truly something special, and shared food somehow seemed to hold it all together.
And so when Amanda sent me her recipe for Moroccan tagine of beef and apricots, I was instantly transported back to a magical, enchanting time and place that has become almost mythical in my memory over the 20 years since. I could almost feel and smell that neighborhood again, remembering les voisins du maroc (the Moroccans) and their fragrant and flavorful dishes. What a thrill it would be to share this memory, and recipe, with my own family! Such a thrill, in fact, that we decided to make a party out of the event, by preparing the tagine and picking up a few “extras” from a local Moroccan restaurant.
|beef & prune tagine, maakouda, and basbousa|
From Amanda’s initial inspiration grew a feast, including her phenomenal tagine, a pile of maakouda (Moroccan potato patties from the restaurant), and giant piece of basbousa (a semolina and coconut cake in orange blossom syrup, which is technically more Middle Eastern than Moroccan… but it sounded so delicious that we fudged a little on the geography when we saw it on the menu).
The whole family thoroughly enjoyed the tagine, which, despite a surprisingly short list of ingredients, was remarkably flavorful. My husband Kam and 5-year old Mag both asked when I would make this again, although Mag further requested hers be served without fruit next time. (I used prunes, but Amanda’s original recipe notes that apricots are also common. I think I’ll try apricots next time.)
And the maakouda? Not sure if I’ll ever eat mashed potatoes again, after trying maakouda! Just a few quick steps more than making simple mashed potatoes, and infinitely yummier. Why didn’t we order a double order? Well, next time…
And that delicious sounding orange blossom coconut cake? Not quite as delicious as it sounded, unfortunately. Normally, cake is a winner; fruity syrups are winners… but this combination somehow smelled and tasted like sunscreen. Even the two sweet-tooths in the house (Mag and me) couldn’t eat more than a few nibbles. But we enjoyed the chance to try it, nonetheless.
At the end of this wonderful evening, I have to thank Amanda for inspiring this fabulous dinner, and even better, the return to a magical memory of a time and place that I’m all but sure is now long gone. Merci infiniment, Amanda!Read more
I first “met” Natalia of Culture Baby when she asked me for reflections on celebrating Ramadan with kids, particularly in a non-Muslim country. (You can find the post here) When I began planning to have guests posts while we get settled in Morocco, I asked her if she wouldn’t mind sharing her reflections on living in Morocco – and here they are! You can visit Natalia’s online shop full of gorgeous world goods, read her blog, and connect on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.
Just as MarocMama is arriving in Morocco, we are sadly leaving it. We have spent almost 10 months in the capital of Rabat and have had the chance to travel over much of this beautiful country. For all that I could write about ancient fortresses, the sights and smells of old medinas and souks or the quiet dignity of arabesque art and architecture, what I will remember most about this country in the years to come will be the way is opened its arms to us and most especially, our son.
The Moroccans adore babies. One of my very first culture shock moments occurred before we had even left the airport on arrival. A man walked right up to my then 18 month old, cupped his little face in his hands and planted a big kiss on his cheek mumbling “zween”…beautiful.
Our son has since been spoiled with the attention. The central part that children play in the Moroccan household and society mean that these is seldom a place where they are unwelcome. Our son has always had the run of any restaurant or hotel, shown the kitchens or hidden rooms by staff. The presence of a child always seems to be one that smooths any introduction, even where language is a barrier.
When we return to the US, I will be grateful for many things that we’ve done without here….organic produce, reliable schedules, functioning play ground equipment. But I will miss the easy understanding, commiseration and openness you receive here from shopkeepers, or waiters. It is much better than the nervousness or outright panic you can often encounter from their American counterparts.
I remember when we announced to friends and family that we were taking our then 18 month old to North Africa. There was wide eyed disbelief and questions about how we would keep our baby fed, safe, etc. But for all that there have been challenges this year, I cannot think of a warmer more welcoming place for our child to have spent a year.Read more
Morocco from A-Z
Recently I guest posted on Glittering Muffins. Valerie has a very cool guest post series in which people share information about their state, country or even city.
I found it really interesting that when I sat down to think of something representing Morocco that started with every letter of the alphabet I had no problem!
Stop by and visit Glittering Muffins to learn about Morocco from A-Z.
- 90Today's guest post comes from Nicole and Gary Winchester of CultureAddict/HistoryNerd a most awesome blog from the Toronto couple. You can also find them on Twitter @addict_nerd. They are sharing about their trip to Ifrane in northern Morocco. Thanks so much for sharing this with my readers Nicole and Gary! Even after being in Morocco…
- 80Today I'm guest posting on my friend Justine's blog Culture Every Day. If you haven't had the chance to read her work you really should. I love her writing style and, like us, she and her husband are raising some global boys! Stop by and say hello!! An Interview with Amanda
- 73Today's guest post is from Serene of The Mom Food Project. I was so excited when she offered to share her story of visiting Morocco as a 10 year old! (I might be even more amazed that she remembers that trip!) So what is The Mom Food Project? Serene says this about the project mission;…
- 69A regular feature that I have started is the sharing of guest posts. This is a great way to get new readers for your own blog and to give MarocMama readers some new reading material too. Some ideas for guest posting; Morocco: Have you tried one of my recipes? Why not share your story with…
- 68If there is anyone that knows Moroccan food it's Paula Wolfert. She truly is the queen, the Julia Child's of Moroccan food in America. I adore her cookbooks and she is truly such a very kind and wonderful person. I hope that I have the honor of meeting her very soon. This is her recipe…
I want to give you a little heads up. Right now I am studying to take the LSAT exam. I’ve finally decided to make my law school dream a reality and am preparing myself for this first step. The test is for the middle of February so I am cramming! I don’t want to take a long break from writing however I know I will not have the time to make new meals or put together long posts. I’ve asked some of my readers, friends and followers to help me out by sharing some of their stories to keep you interested while I’m chained to my desk.
Stephanie is the founder and co-editor of InCultureParent.com, a magazine for parents raising little global citizens. She has two Moroccan American daughters (ages 3 and 5), whom she is raising, together with her husband, bilingual in Arabic and English. After many moves worldwide, she currently lives in Berkeley, California. I was so happy that Stephanie agreed to share this post because it’s really important for me! Last week we received news from MarocBaba’s physician that he has celiac disease. We had been experimenting with gluten (or the absence of it) in his diet to see if it would help with issues he was having. We were correct. Stephanie’s post is a great example of how hard gluten-free life can be for lovers of Moroccan food (and Moroccans themselves!) But never fear – it can be done!
Gluten free and Moroccan cooking are not the best of friends. The idea of eating gluten free is pure craziness to most Moroccans. Many have told me point blank they would rather suffer the repercussions than be forced to give up gluten. My sister-in-law is case in point. While she has many of the symptoms associated with those who have an intolerance to gluten (frequent stomach pain, bloating, gas constipation, headaches), and each trip to Morocco I talk to her about what I believe is her gluten intolerance just like my daughter’s, she has been unwilling and incapable in her own mind, of forgoing bread for even just one day. You see every meal and snack in Morocco revolves around bread. Bread goes beyond being a simple staple—it is also the primary utensil you use to eat with, replacing forks and spoons.
The last time we went to Morocco, I was able to arm myself with an arsenal of gluten-free breads, pastas and cereals to take with us. It still didn’t do much good because when the whole family was enjoying just off the stove, flaky pieces of msemsen—a fried Moroccan bread that is sheer heaven— and you hand my daughter a dry, gluten free roll out of plastic, you can guess how that went down.
We weather Morocco with a lot of Miralax and do our best to limit bread as much as possible (usually this involves eating breakfast with Jasmin before everyone else to ensure she eats gluten free and is full by the time the real breakfast is served). But at home, it’s a different story. Our household is largely gluten free, except my husband who can’t survive without bread. Breakfast for him is a baguette with olive oil for dipping. He’s never really tempted by any of my weekend breakfasts—pancakes, waffles, Brazilian cheese bread, and instead always opts for white bread with olive oil and maybe jam if he’s getting crazy and really mixing things up (sarcasm).
For a time, even after we knew Jasmin should eat gluten free, it was hard to give up certain Moroccan food routines, like my husband’s Friday night couscous or Sunday morning harsha (also written harcha–a type of flat bread). Both are made of semolina flour. Often times, direct gluten-free substitutes don’t end up tasting as good. But more and more, I have been experimenting and improvising to turn traditional Moroccan meals into gluten-free ones. I started with something easy: harsha. Harsha, a pan-fried flat bread, is like a Moroccan pancake except much firmer. It’s sort of like a patty and you eat it always fresh out of the frying pan, then smeared in jelly or dipped in honey.
I make my gluten-free harsha with corn flour (masa harina) and it’s a distant cousin of the Colombian arepa, but using a Moroccan recipe all the way.
- 3 cups corn flour*
- 1 T baking powder
- 4 T sugar
- 1 t salt
- 4 T butter (melted)
- 1/2-3/4 cup warm milk until the batter is wet enough to form patties in your hand
Mix the dry ingredients and add in the butter then milk. Add the milk slowly to make sure the dough is not too wet. Mix dough with your hands as it will be stiff. Form into hamburger-like patties and cook in butter over medium-low heat. They take a little bit to cook fully through on both sides (approximately 6-9 minutes per side).
Serve with honey or jam. Better yet, you can make a true Moroccan side by mixing together warm butter and honey, in equal proportions, for dipping sauce. Bet you can’t eat just one!
*If you want the real deal, then you would use semolina flour instead of corn flour to make authentic gluten-filled harsha.
Thank you so much Stephanie for sharing this story and post. I know that as we continue down the road of gluten-free living there will be so many issues like this that come up!! If you’d like to follow Stephanie you can find her at IncultureParent.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
- 74This is a scene from a hanut or corner store in Morocco. Hanuts are everywhere, in fact it's nearly impossible to go more than 2 blocks without coming across one. They sell all types of things but most importantly they sell bread. See the counter lined with breads? I can count at least seven different…
Part Two of the post series on Moroccan weddings.
After the location was booked, we had to start looking for the caterer and also choose the menu of the big day. Usually, Moroccan weddings menus are quite similar. First, there’s a Moroccan food tradition that consists of welcoming the guests by serving them dates and a little glass of almond milk flavoured with orange water. Then, we would serve salted appetizers or cake and sweets and different sorts of juices (alcohol being forbidden by Islam, we don’t serve any of it).
When the bride and the groom make their entrance, the dinner follows right after. Some people would serve two meat dishes like grilled chicken with saffron sauce and lamb tagine with prune and almonds, or one meat dish (chicken or lamb) and Seffa (short noodles sweetened and served with cinnamon and grilled almonds). For me, I would like to have fish Pastilla and Lamb Tagine. Dessert usually is a big fruit basket and we decided to have some ice cream too.
The evening goes on with different sorts of Moroccan cookies and cakes like Ka’b Ghzal, Ghroriba, Halwa dial cook, etc. accompanied of course with the famous mint tea and coffee. There is also a wedding cake that marks the end of the party as the newly wed usually leave after that.
As the weddings in Morocco start pretty late (9 PM) they usually finish early in the morning (4 or 5 AM). There again, there’s a breakfast served with a Harira soup and Moroccan crepes (Baghrir and Mesemen).
What to wear? : looking for the perfect “Neggafa”
In every wedding, the bride is the main focus of the day. In Morocco, the bride is definitely the queen of the ceremony (my husband is a bit jealous of all the attention I’ll be getting)! That’s why we hire a special lady called “Neggafa” that is only dedicated to the bride and what she has to wear in terms of customes, gold accessories like jewelery and crowns (as I said, queen !), make up, etc. The Neggafa usually brings up some special wedding outfits (3 or 4) and helps accessorize the caftans (Moroccan dresses) the bride has. That’s why, the bride has to make sure that the Neggafa has a good taste and that the accessories she has would fit perfectly with the outfits.
I’ve heard about one Neggafa and sent my mother to see what she’s like. She came back completely stunned by the beauty of the outfits and we decided to go with her. Before the wedding, I’ll go and choose which caftans I will be wearing at which part of the ceremony.
For the groom, he usually wears a suit. He might change to a tunic and pants called Jabador and a Moroccan male “Djellaba”.
Make sure to visit @SihamAl on Twitter and let her know what you think of these posts!
- 63Yesterday was the big wedding day. Moroccan weddings are quite a bit different from American weddings however there are some similar aspects. One thing that my brother in law wanted for the wedding was for him and his brother to have boutonnieres. This is not typical and so buying one wasn't an option. I…
- 51The final installment of posts on a Moroccan wedding (ok there might be more picture posts to come!) Read Part One and Two. A huge thank you to @SihamAl for writing and sharing this information! Music Music is what makes the party live and having a good orchestra playing good music making people dance is the…
- 46*waves* Hello from Morocco! Some of you know that we are here for a wedding and now all of you know that we're here for a wedding! I've been wanting to write a post about what exactly is entailed in a Moroccan wedding but have just been putting it off. However my Twitter friend @SihamAl…
- 39Today is International Women's Day, a holiday that has been celebrated since the early 1900's when women began demanding fair pay and better working conditions. While it's true women still are at an uneven par with men in the workplace the situation in Western nations is much better than that in the developing world. It's…