Thursday, March 5, 2009


“Eating with the fullest pleasure – pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance – is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living in mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.” Wendell Berry

Welcome to my new blog! I’m keeping up my other blog, but decided to start an additional one for my cooking adventures, just to keep it all in the right place. I’ve been living in Morocco for a year and a half this Wednesday as a Peace Corps volunteer in a rural Amazigh (Berber) village in the Middle Atlas Mountains. It’s been a wonderful journey, but certainly not without its difficulties. I have grown in many ways, and there are many more I’m sure, but one major area has been cooking, and that what this blog is about. But first, if you’re interested, a little more on how I got to this point and where I’m going with it… My experience here has led me to a very deep understanding of what I value in life and what kind of life I intend to live. No one aspect has led me to this great understanding, the best recipe I can narrow it down to is the influence of family, food and time.

Family is important no matter where you are, and I was close to my family in the states, but wow. Nothing could have ever prepared me for the intensity of the importance of family here. At times irritating, but as a whole their commitment to family is awesome. I fear living in a society again where your neighbor is not as essential and close to you as your blood sister.

There is family, and then the greater family - community. I live way out in the bled, where everyone knows everyone. In the states you might define yourself as a city person or a country person by whether you enjoy the fast-paced life and anonymity of the city or the slower, borrow-eggs-from-your-neighbor kind of life in the country. I can now say for certain, if you want to put me in a box, that I am a country person. I may always feel lost, in my mind and the world, but to be a part of a community gives me such a great sense of responsibility and belonging; closeness to people keeps you on the ground. To use my usual metaphor of weaving, we are all essential threads in the great weaving of life, and the broken or fallen threads affect those closest the most. To be a real member of your community and family is to be strong, to be present, to keep weaving, to keep growing.

The hospitality of this country amazes me every day. Morocco is not without its domestic, social and otherwise problems, but I’m intent on keeping this blog positive, and in truth, my overall experience here is positive. The fact that I can walk into a completely new village, speak a few words of Tam and be welcomed with open arms to tea, a meal, and essentially a lifetime invitation, if not obligation, to return is amazing. Except for the usual joke about marrying their son and taking him to America, the hospitality is genuine and without expectation for anything in return. They take great pride and joy in providing, which leads me to food.

As Michael Pollan wrote in
In Defense of Food, “The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from mere animal biology to an act of culture.” I can attest that here in Morocco no one eats alone, that aspect of the culture does not appear to be on its way out anytime soon. There is no better way to say, especially when you don’t know the language too well, that you appreciate someone than to accept their invitation to tea and, often, the meal too. The diet, though seemingly awful by our snooty American upturned noses, is really not so bad. The real “problem” is the overabundance of oil, bread and sugary tea. Bread is considered holy (you’re not allowed to throw it away), and, especially for the poor, the most abundant source of sustenance. But aside from that, and much of the offal, I love the food here; unbelievable couscous, tagine, pizara (fava bean soup), fresh bread and on and on.

The source of all food is the very social event of the weekly souq. Oh souq. I LOVE souq. I wrote about it on my other blog on
Feb. 26 if you want to read more about it. Back in the states the Farmer’s Market was always the “better but more expensive” option I usually forgot to go to, oh but I have changed here. Since I could no longer walk directly into the pre-packaged food section at a supermarket, I quickly had to find a way to make these beautiful whole foods into meals. And so I did. I’ve found that the cravings for certain restaurants have all but ceased, and unavailable ingredients have been substituted or forgotten.

I have the greatest ease of access to the most important food - real food, whatever is in season, fresh every week, and well within budget. It’s not organic, but it’s not industrialized either. I’ve learned that the possibilities are endless in cooking and enjoying the beauty and taste of each special food as it comes in season is a joy unlike any other. As Barbara Kingsolver said in
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle when writing on the ridiculousness of a year-round easy-access food system, “…there is a simpler reason to pass-up off-season asparagus: it’s inferior. Respecting the dignity of a spectacular food means enjoying it at its best.” I have a deep respect for all food, and when the season for one food ends the goodbye is painful, but the joyful hello to the next food in season keeps the balance.

And then there is time. Time is what has allowed me to discover and appreciate family and food in an entirely new way. I work of course, but not in the 8-5, punch-in, punch out style. Some days it’s a 24/7 job; between 48 hour weddings, tea dates, odd hours at the cooperative, visiting host family, and over all mingling in town, it can be exhausting. Other times I’ll spend an entire day or two in my house with only myself, my cat and my books. In this way time has allowed me, or really forced me, to take a far closer look into my soul; my yearning, my weakness, my strength, my values.

I think it took me a full year here to really “go native,” though I’ll never actually be native. What I really mean is it took a full year for me to fall in love with this part of the earth I’ve been living on, and also to see my future bathed in light rather than a dark haze of uncertainty. I’m at the age of discovery, the age most of us want to really get a move on and into our “professional life”. With help from so many different sources-culture, people, books, etc., I believe I really have found it. I’m still not able to fully articulate all my reasoning and exactly where I aim to be in a couple years, but I know I want to farm. It’s as simple, and as complicated as that. It’s just so obvious. It’s often too simple for me to comprehend, like being more confusing would make it more right. I’ve realized that the intersection of all that I value, family (the people that sustain us), the earth and food (the thing that sustains us) and self (what we are, and in turn what we do) is farming. For the manual labor that I love, for the philosophies on life working with rather than against the earth (i.e. holism) instills, for the people in which it provides nourishing food and education, and the relationships and community this builds in the exchange of pure goods (tangible and intangible). Well, that’s what I’ve got so far anyway.

While I’ve developed a deep love for this country and its people, I’ve also further developed a love and sense of responsibility for my home in America. I am American, for better or worse, and think these ideas and desires are very necessary and the people ready for the new food revolution there. My plan is to keep reading all these great books on farming, finding connections and researching farms via the internet, keep cooking and of course all of my Peace Corps work until I finish my service this November, just in time to make it home for Thanksgiving, visit family and friends, recover from reverse culture shock, and train/get back in shape for my first season on a farm. Most internships begin in March or April and run until October or so. And then… well I’ll let you know…

So beyond that awful lengthy introduction is this here blog. I promise all future posts will be free of my long-winded blabberings on life’s confusions, findings and ideas. My intension with this blog is fairly straightforward – recipes! I take great pleasure in being a host and cooking it up for people and, thus far at least, it’s been quite well received. My recipes are inspired by and often more than partially stolen from far better cooks than I. I hope to make it applicable to anyone, I hope you enjoy and please let me know what you think!


  1. YUM, YUM! I can't wait to read and try your recipe's! Great intro! I love you! Love, Mom

  2. Your new blog caught my eye. I'm a year behind you and closer to Rabat, but what you said here really hit home for me. I am just beginning my culinary adventure here and look forward to new discoveries. I hope you don't mind if I keep an eye on your blogging--and you are welcome to come cook with me sometime if you are heading to Rabat!

    -Lisa Payne

  3. Best foccacia, cakes, sauces, and samosas in Morocco are made in your little hut in Ait Hamza.

  4. hi
    i like you blog and what you said about my contry im from morocco living in usa ,saint louis missouri ,every single things you said is true ,i wish u all the best in morocco