March 27, 2011

Coming Home to a Country of Old Friends.

Coming to Morocco is not a stretch for me. It’s like coming home.

Yet, this time, there was some worry about arriving amid political unrest, which is quite rare if ever. After Tunisia and Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, Algeria and Libya followed suit. Some of these North African countries fared better than others during the protests, and Libya no doubt was like upsetting a hornet's nest. 

But Morocco was sane. Some thugs took advantage of the protests there and broke a few shop windows, but the demonstrations themselves were peaceful. Reform was taken seriously and the king is responding with intelligence. He was already on the trail of change, with no fear of being overthrown. On March 9, he gave an historical speech letting the people know that he was giving up seventy percent of his power. What this means is that ministers in each region will be voted in rather than appointed by him. One thing is for sure, protest or not, the Moroccan people love their King.

Protests in general are healthy. They effect change by the people, for the people. Europeans are taught to "manifest" in school, especially against unions, etc. The French, for example, make a habit of demonstrating. We in America are a little less willing.

It’s a shame that people cancelled their trips to Morocco this spring due to fear of unrest. Those of us who know Morocco better, know that it would be extremely rare to have an overthrow. Jobs are needed and some things need to change, like certain Ministers that squander money. Is that different than any other country in the world?

Moroccan people are kind and gentle and most of all good natured. I realize that I am biased, knowing only the people that I have met within this area of southern Morocco. For the last ten years I have been working with a similar group of people in Marrakech, Berbers in the Atlas mountains and by the coast of Essaouira. I have a handful of urban, university educated local friends as well. The more I get to know them the more their sense of humor comes out. These people are mostly Berber, some Arab—but they say in Morocco, "If you scratch an Arab, you will find a Berber."

March 25, 2011

Everyday life in the Palmeraie.

 With talk of earthquakes, tsunami's and supermoons, everyday life here in the palmeraie outside of Marrakech, is thankfully quiet and peaceful. We have not fallen asleep to what's happening in the rest of the world, but what can we do?  We construct colorful and tasty tagines as offerings and read poetry aloud.  In times of turmoil and uncertainty in pockets around the globe, we know that life is not perfect and never will be. But we do what we can do to celebrate the beauty at hand.

Spring Tagine with chicken, fava and fresh fennel

March 18, 2011

Recipe: Purée of Fresh Fennel Soup

Passato di Finnochio

(Purée of Fresh Fennel Soup)

Fennel is a winter vegetable commonly used in Italy, but not so common in America. Its delicate and somewhat licorice aftertaste makes the celery-like texture delicious--either eaten raw, dipped in extra virgin olive oil and salt as in pinzimonio, or puréed into this delectable soup. The addition of dried fennel flowers adds a summery highlight, along with the color contrast and exotic smattering of saffron.

  • Two fennel bulbs
  • One shallot
  • One potato
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fennel flowers
  • A few strands of saffron
Chop the fennel and potato into rustic chunks. Slice shallot thinly and sauté in extra virgin olive oil. Add fennel and potato and coat with the oil while stirring gently. Add water or vegetable broth to cover the soup by three finger width. Add salt and pepper. Let simmer for 20 minutes.

Put contents into a blender or food processor. Purée the soup to a velvety texture. Correct salt to taste.

Place in bowls and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with a touch of dried fennel flowers and a few threads of saffron.