Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tea and Tagine

It has been quite some time since this blog had any attention, so let me explain why.  For the past six weeks I have been in rural Morocco working with an Engineers Without Borders student group on a bridge building project.  On the way over, due to flight delays, we had a five hour layover in Paris, so we took the opportunity to head into Paris for a few hours, see some sights, and eat plenty of macaroons.

Once we arrived in Morocco, most of my time was spent on the worksite.  However, every day we were treated to lunch at a different house in the village.  Lunches were delicious but enormous!  The Moroccan standard for hospitably is to present everything they can on the table.  This slightly conflicts with the American tradition of cleaning your plate, which we soon learned was impossible with the portions provided! 

Lunches traditionally started with tea- a combination of Chinese green tea steeped with mint leaves and saturated with as much sugar as possible.  Tea was generally served with either homemade cookies and nuts or an assortment of homemade oils and honeys for bread dipping.

After tea came the main courses.  The traditional Moroccan dish is a tagine.  Tagine is actually the dish that the meal is cooked in, but the dish is referred to with the same name.  The tagine is a clay dish with a conical top, filled with lamb and some vegetables and topped with either fries or potatoes.  We would also get eggs and dates on some of our tagines.

One tagine was enough to fill our whole group up (especially because you eat all of your food using bread to scoop bites from the center communal dish), but oftentimes we would get at least one other main dish- sometimes two!  My favorite was the chicken.  The women would cook whole chickens in a lemon-saffron seasoning and top them with fries.  The chicken was some of the best I have ever had.

The last main dish (and the most difficult to conquer) was the cous-cous.  The cous-cous would come out in a heaping pile, topped with vegetables and lamb.  Cous-cous was actually my least favorite of the Moroccan dishes, but I think that mostly had to do with the fact that I was stuffed by the time it came out!

To close out lunch, we were always served watermelon and some other assorted fruit.  It was watermelon season during our visit, so it was always plentiful and delicious!  It was also our favorite way to hydrate before returning to the site for a long afternoon of work.  Morocco was an incredible experience, and the food absolutely reflected the community's excitement about our project and their willingness to give their best to us even if they had very little themselves.


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