Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dining in Morocco (Manger au Maroc)


My daughter Tosca and I went on a French immersion tour to Morocco. We wanted to become fluent in French and enjoy a new culture and cuisine without gaining 5 lbs. Nous avons beaucoup mangé et vu et nous parlons mieux maintenant.

To enjoy the cuisine fully, it’s best you don’t have any food restrictions. It’s not the time to be on a vegetarian or high protein diet. You’ll miss out on the lamb that melts in your mouth and the air-light and flavorful couscous. Also, don’t be too curious. The street food may smell delicious but can have scary reactions on your digestive system. Follow the directions of your guide at all times. We listened carefully so fortunately no one on our tour had problems.

I’ve divided la nourriture into bad and good categories, and included some activity ideas. Print out for your next trip.

MAUVAISE CUISINE (BAD)

➢ Breakfast: Continental - constipation on a plate - pastries, croissants, pancakes. No sign of whole wheat breads or high fiber cereals.
➢ Lunch and Dinner: it is tempting to empty the bowls of nuts and olives before the appetizer arrives.
➢ Entrée can be two dishes.
➢ Main course is floating in oil.
➢ Enormous portions.
➢ Bones in the fish.
➢ White bread only.
➢ Avoid tap water.
➢ Unlimited wine, although alcohol is not available at some restaurants.
➢ Great coffee.
➢ No chocolate desserts.
➢ If you find a pattiserie, pastries are rich in sugar, honey and syrup.
➢ Smoking allowed.

BONNE CUISINE (GOOD)

➢ Breakfast: Sometimes a large variety. Fresh orange juice and fruit in various forms. Grab the prunes if you’re feeling constipated. Actually, the opposite of constipation is usually the norm.
➢ Lunch and Dinner: Taste the nuts (2 Tbsp max) and a wide variety of olives (6 max), knowing you’re taking in the good mono-unsaturated fats, fiber and vitamin E.
➢ Appetizers: Up to 10 vegetables. Carrots done 3 different ways. Sugar is added to vegetables. Don’t worry. We could actually learn from this. By adding sugar and reducing the bitter taste of vegetables, we could encourage children to eat more vegetables. They may not crave their sweet foods as much.
➢ Lamb is the best ever.
➢ Couscous is the best ever, served with chicken or lamb, vegetables and legumes.
➢ Tagine is delicious lamb or chicken and vegetables cooked in cone-shaped pottery.
➢ Excellent choice: Fish baked in a parchment and covered by ½” of salt. The waiter removes the salt and parchment carefully, then cuts the fish into filets.
➢ If you feel like you’re overeating, order the pigeon. You’ll spend most of the time picking on the bones.
➢ Set menu (you don’t have to guess).
➢ Bottled water available everywhere.
➢ In coastal towns, magnificent fresh fish caught that day.
➢ Great mint tea.
➢ Really hot coffee and tea (not the semi-warm kind we are served for suing reasons).
➢ No chocolate desserts.
➢ No snacking between meals.
➢ Outdoor gardens and widely spaced tables keep cigarette smoke away from you.
➢ The table is yours for the night, even if you turn up late for your reservation.
➢ Africa is similar to Asia and Australia, tipping is not necessary - Servis compris. Leave a few dollars if the service is excellent.

EXERCISE

➢ Jog: early morning, before the heat sets in. Tosca, training for a marathon, jogged with a female traveler. They saw only male joggers on the paths. Two blond women attract a lot of attention so ask your guide for the best route and ignore whistles and calls of “gazelle.”. A gazelle is a beautiful, elegant deer so that’s actually a compliment. If it’s too hot to jog, swim.
➢ Swim: most hotels have unheated pools. The wonderful part is you don’t end up with a chlorine smell. Reminds me of my youth in South Africa.
➢ Walking is not easy – it’s either too hot or you’re slowed down in the crowds. Women need to walk with their guide.
➢ Walk up and down the stairs in your hotel. (First Floor is called Ground Floor)
➢ Workout: A few hotels have a fitness center, squash courts or tennis courts.

A tip on etiquette: If you’re invited into a traditional home where people eat with their hands, eat and pass food with your right hand. The left hand is used for bodily functions.

Enjoy your trip to Morocco. I would say I had one of my best trips ever, thanks to the excellent planning by our French teacher, Annie Hemmingway, from Alliance Francaise New York, and her guide, Moulet.

Bon Appétit et Bon Voyage!


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