Tag Archives: couscous

Day 2: Breakfasty Couscous and BEGHRIR MADE CORRECTLY!

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I think I need to slightly modify the name of this particular project. Operation Cook Moroccan Food and Feed it to Caroline is a bit too specific, especially because today I cooked Moroccan Food and Fed it to Joe, Zoe, and Ernie. Joe, Zoe, and Ernie are pretty much the best people on the planet. Heather and Amanda too, but they were at work (SOME people have jobs, Katie). Today was a phenomenal, wonderful, fabulous, tiring day, and I now find myself in that classic conundrum: I’m too hungry to go to sleep, but too tired to want to get up and eat. As you’ll know if you know me or have ever read this blog before, hunger won out.

Katie, you’re unemployed and all you do is cook food and nap all day. Hungry and tired?!

ANYWAY!

Today’s menu featured my first crack at couscous and second attempt at beghrir. The couscous turned out decently well–I sauteed some pears, cooked onions and raisins in sunflower oil and added as many spices as I could to form a sort of ras al-hanout (I know I can buy it, but I was having fun just throwing in different spices. Wheeee! It makes me feel like a real cook! You know, not a holographic one!), and topped the whole thing with some dates and a sprig of mint. If I’ve learned anything from the dishes I ate in Morocco, it’s that presentation matters. We ate it out of a baking dish because I don’t have a tagine or anything. Anyway, it was a bit of a take-off from the sweet couscous served on special occasions in Morocco, only done on a smaller scale and with a lot less knowledge of what I was doing. Uh.

Speaking of couscous, I hear that you sort of have to use instant couscous in the US, which is dumb. I don’t think it turned out as well using veggie broth as it does using chicken broth–I usually make my instant couscous with chicken broth and orange juice to give it flavor. I probably could’ve gone the extra dollar and bought real, not from-concentrate OJ, but I’m cheap. Anyway, I’m going to start looking for a better way to make couscous here, because instant really isn’t the same.

ANYWAY, note to readers, when doing seat-of-the-pants couscous, always make more sauce than you think is necessary. In my case, I should’ve made sauce. Couscous can get a bit dry if there’s not enough goopy stuff to go with it. Still, I shouldn’t be TOO judgy-judge with myself, because it was also pretty yummy. I kept some Moroccan tastes and definitely made it in the spirit of Morocco: fruit and onions cooked together! Woohoo!!!!

Also, beghrir is the SHIT when made correctly. Each batch makes enough for…a lot of people, so I put them on the table with a note to my housemates to dig in, and they were GONE in two shakes. I’m going to try to tweak the recipe so that they turn out spongier and a bit thinner, but I’m new to baking and cooking (I’m not a cook, really. You know this, right?), so I have absolutely no idea how to go about that. I’ll probably google something like “how to make spongier beghrir” and see what comes up.

Okay, now you google it. There is ONE result, a page of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food that mentions it. I’m going to google–oh. Yeah. Googling “beghrir recipe” is a bit more productive, huh?

Well, I’ll go back to my red beans and rice, take my nap, and leave you in peace. When I decide to stop being a lazy fart, I’ll upload pictures.

Peace and happiness, yo.

(oh. Maybe I’ll start posting some recipes or something. That’d be useful, huh? Might give a bit more purpose to this blog, which is currently me telling you about what I cooked today? Hmmm.)

La Vie en Couscous

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I’d totally forgotten that today was Friday, until Boushra called me to lunch and the huge earthenware dish made for serving couscous sat, piled high, on the low round table in the room on the terrace. We didn’t talk much as we ate, though the dialogue from the familiar Darija-dubbed soaps on satellite TV provided the ever-present background noise I’ve grown so accustomed to.

Family life here in Oudaiya is wonderful, though not without its quirks and challenges. My current awkward and silent battle is with the leaky septic tank in the downstairs toilet; after one incidence of desperately attempting to flush it by hand (which, I’ll have you know, takes forever when you don’t have good water pressure. By no-good water pressure, I mean a shower head with uneven water flow), I’ve resigned myself to pooping in the upstairs bathroom. It’s totally fine, I just never know if it’ll flush or not. It makes pooping rather stressful, but also a sort of forbidden adventure. HaHA! I mentally cackle evilly when everything flushes properly. I have defeated you, septic tank.

Other than that, living with Moroccans is fascinating. They are a kind, generous, raucous bunch, with their own traditions and habits that I’ve grown accustomed to and learned to love. Eggs with salt and cumin, salad dressing of vinegar and dijon mustard, flan (FLAAAAAAN!!!!!!). We’re allowed nowhere near helping with the laundry, though I do help with dishes every so often. Someone is always in the house, and so whenever I return I need only ring the birdsong doorbell to be let in, amidst bisous and salaams, to the whitewashed house in the Kasbah that I’ve learned to call home.

The ebb and flow of their conversation (as I begin to understand more and more) doesn’t sound anything like English conversation: their words are more forceful, their speech more intense, and everything is a level louder than it is in English. Oftentimes, normal conversation is conducted at a volume that might indicate a fight in the States, and I’m never sure if it’s because Moroccans just talk louder, or if it’s because the TV’s always on as well.

TV is different here too. Even in the poorest of poor families, there is a TV with a satellite dish; I believe satellite TV is either free or very, very, very cheap, and many researchers (such as Fatema Mernissi, who you’ve probably heard me rave about before) are looking into the effect that satellite TV is having on the creation of a pan-Arab identity, and on North-African and Middle-Eastern society in general. Driving past slums and cities is so strange: thousands of brown clay buildings, thousands of satellite dishes. Satellite dishes are how one can tell if a shantytown’s abandoned or not.

Slowly but surely, the number of programs in Darija is rising; most, but not all, Moroccans understand fousha; fewer actually speak it. The news and most programs are still conducted in either Fousha or Maasri (Egyptian). My favorite soap is “N’Oubliez Pas,” which is a Darija-dubbed Turkish show in which one of the main characters bears a striking resemblance to my friend Kenzie back home. Her character just gave enough money so that her would-be fiancé (-but-isn’t-because-she-married-somebody-else-for-his-money-and-that-guy-died)’s family could afford a lawyer for him so that he wouldn’t get hanged. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Most Moroccans love Shakira with every fiber of their beings, as well as – to a slightly lesser extent – Adele. I’m getting to know their popular artists, too, but I couldn’t tell you their names. The girl with the weird eyebrows sucks, the middle-aged dude’s really good. It’s a science.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying the slow days and hazy sunshine, the distant sound of the ocean, the sea breezes and the long walks by the beach that I’ve been taking as the sun sets. I sit on my windowsill and look out at the river, watch the boats go by, and imagine what I must look like to the tourists below: a white girl in harem pants reading a book in one of the windows set high in the imposing wall of the kasbah like some modern-day Jasmine or reclusive weirdo. I spend the slow days folding socks and walking around, and now that I have five slow days ahead of me (most of my cohort is out traveling, but I’m hanging around to enjoy some peace, beach, and whatever else strikes my fancy), I’m really looking forward to all the books I’m going to finish and all the papers (yes, I have papers, but that’s all right) that I’m going to write. My time here in Morocco is truly winding down, and as I reflect a little bit on everything that’s happened, I feel pretty awesome about it. It was a lot harder than I expected it to be, but also a thousand times more rewarding, enriching, and fulfilling.

BUT MORE ABOUT THAT LATER, I’m sure. This sort of rambly type of post is probably going to come back as I wander through my last few weeks here, breathing the ocean air and smiling serenely to myself. It’s hard to believe that this place ever felt strange to me, as crazy as that sounds. Aw, MAN, we say when the topic of conversation turns to our looming departure, I was just getting USED to this place!

But you know what? I’m also excited to get home, so I can hear the inevitable question: “KATIE! Oh my gosh, how was MoROCco?”

I already have my reply ready.

Peace out, kitty cats!

(back to watching Harry Potter!)

#moroccomushkils

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Hi, everyone!

Today marks the exact 3-week countdown until I return chez moi – or, at least, to somewhere in the U.S. I don’t really have any summer plans at all yet. I’m laboring under the delusion that if I delay for long enough making plans for my summer, plans will magically materialize and I’ll have something awesome to do with my life for the next three months. Any suggestions? Here’s what I’m kicking around:

  1. Travel around U.S. as cheaply as possible, possibly via buses and staying with friends/couchsurfing. Perhaps center these travels around a theme, like read great American literature and go to the places they were written, or something like that. Thoughts? (Actually, I just had an idea. I could go around to as many of the JVC houses as I can in the U.S. they’re in 39 cities, that would be pretty cool! Hmmm…) Also, how would I go? By car? Train? Bus?
  2. Get a job. Any job. In Seattle. Oh, and an apartment. Live there. Feel free to offer me a job or free rent.
  3. Wander aimlessly.

I’m sitting in bert’s café contemporain in Agdal, which is this super pricey yet rather awesome café that plays Frank Sinatra and smells of coffee, cigarette smoke, and irony.  Bert’s also has internet, which is wonderful. Maroc Telecom has suffered some sort of damage lately, and it’s been periodically wiping out internet across whole areas of Rabat. This:

I HATE THIS.

Every time the internet returns (even if only for a moment), it’s a house-wide phenomenon. Jalal, my host brother, will come bounding into the room yelling “IL Y A L’CONNEXION! KATIE!!” And we’ll all sprint to our respective PCs or laptops and frantically reload our internet browsers and feverishly push the “GET MAIL!!!!” button on our respective Outlook or Mail applications. At least, that’s what I do.

Then, the internet dies again and the stupid FAST3304-V2 page that I hoped never to see again returns to haunt us.

Then, I decide to have a dance party instead. Tina Turner, usually.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Turn the following song all the way up.
  2. Get up from whatever couch or bed or chair you’re sitting on.
  3. DANCE!!!!!!!! DO THE TWIST! SHAKE IT SHAKE IT DANCE DANCE DANCE!

VERY GOOD! Well done. There’s nothing better than a good dose of Tina Turner when the Internet dies, wherever in the world you happen to be. Anyway, today we’re going to talk about leben! EW!

I believe this is an experience that every single study abroad student has on the first Friday that they spend in Morocco:

 


Leben. This link will tell you everything you need to know about leben, which is a traditional milk product made differently throughout North Africa and the Middle East. In Morocco, it is made – I quote the above link – THUSLY:

“Raw whole milk is not subjected to any heat treatment. Milk is poured in an earthenware pot or in a goat skin called “chetkoua” and is allowed to ferment for 24 to 48 hours. Acidification develops from natural flora of milk. If the outside temperature is too low, the vessel is previously heated before pouring milk and is kept at warm temperature until coagulation is reached. Subsequently, the acidified milk is churned for 30 to 40 minutes. Once the butter is removed, about 10% of water is added to the buttermilk. Then, leben is ready for consumption. It is kept at room temperature for up to 3 days in plastic bags or in traditional vessels.”

Basically, it’s fermented milk. They drink it with couscous. It tastes like spoiled, liquefied sour cream. It is gross.

Of course, we didn’t know this as we sat down for Friday couscous with the family that first time. “Oh,” we thought, “Cool! I like milk. Yaaaay!” and took a GIANT GULP after a few bites of delicious couscous.

OH GOD.

Still, I’ve valiantly sipped Leben at other Moroccans’ houses and on trips, but I have yet to actually enjoy it. In fact, I shiver a little bit at the mention of its name.  Leben is the Voldemort of liquids.

…Leben is the Sauron of dairy products.

Leben is the chosen drink of the Dark Side.

Leben is the Master.

Leben is Evil.

“Leben is an acquired taste for many foreigners,” my host moms say kindly, as Widad drops a block of sugar the size of the Washington Monument into my tiny glass.

“It’s better with sugar!” She says, stirring. My host family looks at me expectantly.

Spoken like a true Moroccan, I think, as I take another sip of Culture.

(GET IT?!??!?! GET IT?!?!?!? IT’S A CULTURAL EXPERIENCE BAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA!)