I have a new opinion piece up on Zester Daily about the pleasures of discovering Morocco and what drove me on, curve after curve.
You can find the whole piece here. It begins like this:
While it is often easy to oversimplify the unknown, or at least the unfamiliar — a place, a cuisine, not to mention a culture — the real pleasure in travel or eating comes from discovering the unexpected and exploring the complexities and contradictions that we unfailingly encounter. When we scratch beneath the obvious and accessible, those polished but rarely three-dimensional surfaces found in glossy magazines or mid-century travel books, we find the essential elements that profoundly inform on the place. We need to sift a bit through the layers to find its truer essence.
Like any number of countries and their magnificent kitchens — Turkey, Mexico and even Spain spring to mind — Morocco frequently suffers a simplified fate, considered by many to consist of a largely homogeneous landscape and handful of familiar (though generally misunderstood) dishes.
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.”