Exploring Culture Through Food: Morrocco
Exploring Culture Through Food: Morocco
The renowned gastronomist Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said, “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are.” It’s no secret the foods we eat reveal a lot about who we are as a person, as well as part of a larger culture. Being from the South, I was raised on fried chicken, biscuits, and as much sweet tea as I could drink. Every region and, on a bigger scale, country has its own types of cuisine and delicacies, which play a big role in shaping the culture.
This past summer, I had an incredible opportunity to study Arabic in Rabat, Morocco. Living with a Moroccan host family, I was fully immersed in the culture, and one of my favorite ways to learn more about the beautiful country was by trying all of the foods I could get my hands on.
ne of the first dishes I encountered was the tagine. A tagine is a traditionally North African dish which shares its name with the clay pot it’s cooked inside. Moroccan tagines are like slow-cooked stews, filled with meats, vegetables, and sometimes even fruit. I’m pretty sure there is an endless number of combinations you can make in tagines, and, oddly enough, a favorite of mine was a chicken tagine topped with fries.
Because I was in Morocco during the entire holy month of Ramadan, I ate harira daily. Throughout Ramadan, when Muslims worldwide observe a month of fasting, the fast is broken at sunset with a date and a piping hot bowl of harira soup. It’s filled with tomatoes, lentils, and chickpeas, with a little lemon juice throw in. Although it might not have been the most exotic dish, it was always tasty.
If you’re looking for something a little more unusual, this next dish is for you. Pastillas are the ultimate combination of sweet and savory. My favorite type of pastilla is made with layers of slow-cooked meat (most commonly chicken), stacked with crunchy layers of toasted,, ground almonds, cinnamon, and sugar. The entire thing is wrapped in a flaky pastry shell and topped with powdered sugar. Essentially, it’s a dessert pastry filled with chicken, and although some of my friends never acquired a taste for them, I couldn’t get enough.
The drink of choice in Morocco is mint tea. During our pre-departure orientation, our director told us that if we didn’t already like hot tea, we were going to soon enough. What he said was true. Not a single day passed that I didn’t drink at least a couple glasses of mint tea, liberally sweetened with sugar chipped right off of a sugar cone. The tea is steeped with sprigs of spearmint stuffed directly into the teapot, and the mint flavor is delicious. Mint tea was a big part of my life in Morocco. Our school had tea breaks between lessons, friendly shopkeepers sat and drank it with us as we talked, and I enjoyed a steaming glass of it with my host family almost every night.
I learned a lot about Moroccan culture during my time visiting the country and trying all the different types of foods. No matter where you come from, food brings people together, and this was definitely true during my time abroad. Next time you find yourself in a new, exciting place, explore the culture though the food, and I guarantee you’ll learn way more than any guide book could tell you.
Deanna grew up just outside of Nashville, Tennessee and is a middle child in a big family. Currently a junior in high school, Deanna enjoys serving as president of the Student Council, competing in Future Business Leaders of America, and working on documentaries for National History Day. When she isn't studying, she loves traveling. Whether it’s trekking through jungles, reading on sunny beaches, or studying Arabic in Morocco, when adventures calls, she’s waiting to answer. After surviving her junior and senior years of high school, she plans to study medicine in college.