With the Darjeeling tea book in to my editor, I flew to Tangier for a break from the desk, from thinking about India, and a change of tea. I did little: wandered — almost compulsively — around one of my favorite cities, saw old friends (and met many new ones), ate well, and drank too many glasses of sweet tea with mint, fresh absinthe leaves, and orange blossoms. And thought about the next book.
I am very pleased to be in the November issue of Condé Nast Traveler, offering some of my top picks for eating in Marrakech. (I would add tangia as #6.) Turn to page 48 in your copy to read it, or click here.
After giving details on how to eat a tagine or roast lamb using *just* the three fingers of the right hand, Frommer’s 1981 North Africa guidebook has this advice on how to handle the next course in the feast, couscous:
“More likely than not, you will botch your first meal [of tagine or lamb]; your neighbor will take pity on you and will feed you with the choicest morsels. Accept them gratefully, but don’t stop trying yourself. However, don’t go to the point of tackling couscous. You will gape with admiration at your fellow guest, particularly at a country meal. Still using only those three fingers, they take a little bit of that elusive steaming semolina, knead it for a few moments, work it into an almost perfectly spherical ball and then, with a deft flick of the thumb, dispatch it into their mouths. Your own attempt will be pitiful and, since it is very unpleasant to splatter your eyes with couscous, you may modestly accept the spoon that has been thoughtfully set aside for you.”
Along my walking tour, between the morning kasbah market and the covered Mellah Market in Marrakech.
I am on the road right now in northern Italy, on assignment in the rice fields of the Po River valley – roughly between Milan and the mountains of Piedmont. That means I’ve been eating lots of risotto. But where there are rice fields there are frogs and I’ve been eating a lot of those, too.
Yesterday I had lunch with Countess Rosetta Clara Cavalli d’Olivola and her son Paolo of Principato di Lucedio – not just one of the finest rice farms in northern Italy but also the oldest (I wrote about them in Rice Pasta Couscous). We went to a small trattoria called La Bucunà in Fontanetto Po and had frogs with onions in a rich vinegar sauce and then a stunning risotto with Barolo and sausage.
Back at Lucedio, Paolo had one of the older women who live on the farm show me how to catch frogs. Using an old cane pole with a piece of prosciutto tied to a 4-foot-long piece of string, she bobbled it on the surface of a slow-moving ditch that edges a rice field and made clicking noises with her mouth. When a frog took the big wad of prosciutto in its mouth she yanked it up. The surprised frog came flying out of the water and through the air and she was able to catch it in her hand.
Well, most of them. Those she missed had us flaying around trying to grab before they could leap back into the water.
She put them in a cotton pouch tied to her waist and took them back to the farm, where they would be prepared for dinner.