Category Archives: Food

In Morocco, the Country of Tagines, Couscous and Dickensian Bureaucracy

Morocco Food Book

Food Travel

Destination: Morocco

Book: Mint Tea and Minarets: A Banquet of Moroccan Memories by Kitty Morse (2012)

 

Even if I did not already have the country of Morocco on my “wannago” list, reading Mint Tea and Minarets would certainly have put it there in a mint-scented heartbeat. And when is the last time you picked up a “cookbook” and did not put it down until you had read through to the last page–breathlessly following a story?

With a supporting cast of delectable dishes, the star of Mint Tea and Minarets is Dar Zitoun, beautifully restored 16th century mansion known as “House of the Pasha” in the city of Azemmour.

Dar Zitoun, Morocco
Dar Zitoun, Kitty Morse’s riad in Azemmour, Morocco. Photo by Owen Morse, copyright 2013

Kitty Morse’s father, a British diplomat in Morocco soon after the country declared independence from France, bought and refurbished this grand riad. It is now all the fashion to find a riad — or rooms in a riad– to occupy when one visits Morocco, but Kitty Morse had the advantage of having a riad in the family and Morocco as a home.

Her French mother’s roots go back into the French era and Morse, who now lives in America, spent her formative years  in the country. What a conversation starter! Someone in Wisconsin, where she went to school, says routinely, “Where are you from?” and Kitty answers, “I was born in Casablanca.”

After she left for the United States, she kept returning to Morocco and made her life’s work lecturing and writing about Moroccan food. For many years she also led culinary tours to Morocco. The author’s background guarantees a food book that will be delicious, accurate and informative. The recipes that end each chapter are exotic but not beyond the reach of an American cook. For instance, you can turn your Thanksgiving turkey into a Moroccan treat with the recipe for Turkey with Couscous and Figs.

Morocco recipe for turkey
Turkey with couscous and figs. Photo by Owen Morse copyright 2013

Although Morse has written several successful cookbooks about Moroccan cuisine, it is important to understand that Mint Tea and Minarets is much more than just a recipe book.  Morse tells a riveting story that sweeps the reader into the emotional turmoil following Morse’s father’s death and decisions on what will become of the beloved house. As she describes her struggles with the Dickensian legal system of Morocco, we learn about Moroccan culture.

While you are learning about the frustrations of the legal system, Morse also introduces you to smen (aged butter) and preserved lemons as she presents recipes for a variety of couscous and tagines. And she takes you on tours of the marketplace and out into the country to see the source of the foods that go into the dishes.

Moroccan Woman with Wheat. Photo By Owen Morse Copyright 2013
Moroccan Woman with Wheat, Morocco. Photo By Owen Morse Copyright 2013

The recipes are mostly dishes made by the house’s caretaker and excellent cook–Azanour.  The food photography (by Kitty Morse’s husband) made me salivate and start making shopping lists so I could created some Roast chicken with preserved lemons and braised vegetables or an egg tagine with olives or kefta, a dish similar to the Greek meatballs that I sometimes make.

Moroccan grilled meat balls
Kefta, Lamb and beef brochettes, Morocco, Photo by Owen Morse copyright 2013

My only complaints about the book involve production, a common complaint with self-published books. The paper used, while providing a good framework for the beautiful photography, is heavy, making the book stiff and awkward yo hold.  

The Table of Contents lists the topic of the chapter’s narrative and the recipe contained therein, but does not say on what page the chapter begins.  There is no separate list of recipes, which is particularly annoying because there is no index. So if you want to find a particular recipe it is a bit of a hunt.

On the plus side, a glossary helps smooth out any difficulties you have understanding Moroccan words used. As I have said, the photography is outstanding. Most importantly, the writing is graceful and enticing.  

Whether you are interested in Moroccan food, or a non-cook interested in learning more about the culture of Morocco, Mint Tea and Minarets will be a definite asset in your travel library.

Note: I do not usually accept self-published books, but in this case, the author had several other successful books published, so I took a chance, and I’m glad I did.  All of the photos you see here were taken by Kitty Morse’s husband Owen and appear in the book. The book cover is linked to Amazon so that you can easily shop.  I am an affiliate of Amazon, so when you use the link to buy something, I earn a couple of pennies. Thanks for your support.

13 Best Places to Eat, Shop,Travel and Enjoy

Cultural Travel

Cultural Finds in 2013

By Jessica Voigts

A new year, and a look back at old favorites, leads me to realize that I’m always thinking about food and culture. Not a surprise, given my lifelong pursuit of both! Take a look at some of my favorite posts from the past year (hint: food cues forthcoming).

Recipes

Canadian butter tarts
Canadian butter tarts. Photo by Jessica Voigts

I love mixing travel and food. In fact, travel for me is food! In this article, Shakespeare and Tarts in Stratford, Canada , family reminiscences coincide with my Granny’s recipe for Canadian butter tarts. Ah, Stratford, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

One of the most popular recipes on Wandering Educators this year was my Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Bark – it’s easy, healthy, and delicious! 


Restaurants & Resources

Scotland Food: Mallaig Prawns
Fresh Mallaig Prawns, The Tea Garden, Mallaig, Scotland – Jessie Voigts

Oh, Scotland – full of such great food! In Exploring Scottish Food One Bite At a Time, I share my favorite restaurants – and some great resources for Scottish food.

One of our editors at Wandering Educators, Casey Siemasko, shared an article on the experience of Night Markets in Taiwan . She notes that your attitude is critical to success – and shares some shopping tips that come from experience.

Shopping

In How to Take a Delicious Cultural Odyssey, Close to Home I shared my technique of going global while staying local. Whether it is food, books, or art, you don’t need to leave the country to explore the world.

Our Chief Editor, Brianna Krueger, shares some shopping tips that all travelers can use, in Totally Nonsarcastic Ways Layovers are Awesome  Bet you’ll agree…

Art & History

Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth
Chartres Cathedral labyrinth, Photo by Tom Flemming

In Tired of Visiting Cathedrals? 7 Reasons to Take Another Look , learn how you can avoid cathedral fatigue and really dig deeply into place.

And, I was very proud of one of our editors, Josh Garrick, who made art history when he was the very first American to exhibit at the National Archaeological Museum in Greece!

Movies

In Visiting the Shire you’ll be inspired by the landscapes of New Zealand, as shown in the Hobbit movies. You’ll also learn how you can take a Hobbit road trip!

In 6 Magical Items to Keep you Safe at Hogwarts, one of the students in our teen travel blogging program, Sarah Albom, discovers some fun and useful items from the Harry Potter Studios in Londonl

Holidays

Legend of Sleepy Hollow Story Teller
Jonathan Kruk performing at Old Dutch Church
Photo © Tom Nycz

This year, I had great fun at A Travelers Library exploring Medieval Christmas traditions and the Halloween back story of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow . What I love most about these articles is the connection from our practices and readings to history.

More history (and a recipe) awaits, in You Can Thank Napoleon for the Yule Log. Food writer and one of our editors Kristen J. Gough digs up the history of this holiday tradition – you’ll be surprised!

Amish Food: Tasting AmericaThe Simple Way

Destination: Amish America

Book: Amish Cooks Across America: Recipes and Traditions from Maine to Montana by Kevin Williams and Lovina Eicher.

Article by Brette Sember

There’s something tantalizing about Amish life. It sounds so simple and down to earth – no phones, no electricity, no computers, no TV. It’s definitely fascinating to many people, which explains why Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and Holmes County, Ohio have become a huge tourist attraction, as people come to see the Amish in their buggies and plain clothes.

Amish buggy, Holmes County Ohio
Amish buggy, Holmes County Ohio

There are several groups of Amish in my area of western New York state – in the Finger Lakes and in the Chautauqua Lake region. Weekends jaunts to these areas bring us face to face with the Amish at farm and craft markets and we pass their buggies on the road. We’ve brought home our share of Amish baked goods and jams. Additionally, I have a personal link to the simple lifestyle. My great grandparents were Mennonite, a religious group very similar to the Amish that embraces a rustic and basic lifestyle (the religions are very similar and so are the cultures – both are known for their baked goods!). So it was with interest that I picked up Amish Cooks Across America: Recipes and Traditions from Maine to Montana by Kevin Williams and Lovina Eicher.

Amish Are Everywhere

The most fascinating fact this book brings home is that Amish are not an East coast group. There are Amish all across the U.S., Canada and even in central and South America. And because the Amish communities are so insular (no way to call each other up or send email), the geographic groups tend to evolve independently. For example, although we tend to think of the Amish in their closed top buggies, the Amish in Wisconsin use topless buggies, those in Pinecraft, Florida ride bikes and have no buggies at all, and those in Montana ride their horses cowboy style. Each community is distinct and separate and so is their food.

Amish Parking
Amish Parking in Millersburg, Ohio

Food Groups

While there are Amish dishes that are consistently enjoyed across the country (the author names whoopee pie and pickled beets but does not include a recipe for either), each group of Amish has its own specialties and this book highlights them. A lot of what people in my area think of as Amish is not recognizable to the Amish in the south or the west. The Amish cook with local ingredients and pick up on regional specialties. For example, in Texas the Amish regularly make quesadillas and burritos, those in Georgia make cornbread, the Florida Amish fry alligator, and the Amish in Montana cook with wild game (the book includes recipes for all of these).

The book is divided into geographic segments and each contains several pages of descriptions about the lifestyles, beliefs and differences in that area with specific pages devoted to groups in certain counties or towns within that region. It’s a fascinating journey through a subculture that is widespread across the country. Each chapter also includes recipes. I recommend loosening your belt before getting down to these: Elderberry Custard Pie, Potato Chowder, Hot Fudge Sundae Cake, Scalloped Corn, Oatmeal Bologna, Yoder Coffeecake, Muscadine Pie, Amish Stovetop Beans, and Huckleberry Pancakes all beckon. This is hearty, carb-laden, homestyle cooking at its best.

Amish breakfast
Amish breakfast at Der Dutchman Restraunt in Holmes County, Ohio

Viewing the Amish

If you were hoping for a photographic peek into Amish life, you won’t get it in this book. The Amish universally shun appearing in photographs and many prefer not to even have their homes or buggies photographed either. One of the authors is herself Amish (she writes a newspaper column with Amish recipes) and the other is her editor, so they are closely attuned to the beliefs of the Amish and are very careful to mainly show photographs of food and landscapes that do not show actual Amish.

What you do get is a tour via words of the people who live this reserved life and how their cuisine reflects their beliefs (the bishops in each area decide how the people live, so some are allowed gas-powered stoves and refrigerators, while others are not) and their geography. The authors interview and quote many Amish across the country so you feel as if you really get to know each group well. Lest you think the Amish are outdated and a fading curiosity, the book explains that they are rapidly expanding – each family generally has eight or nine children, necessitating the start of new groups all across the U.S. If you don’t have an Amish community near you now, you may in the future.

For a taste of the Amish, I’m planning to make Flat Rock Pudding

FLAT ROCK PUDDING

Amish Dessert Recipe
Flat Rock Pudding

Serves 8 to 12

Dorcas Raber said this dessert originated when a woman in her church used chocolate chip cookies instead of the graham crackers in the recipe she had gotten. “It really became a hit in our church,” she said. “Everyone just loves it.”

Flat Rock Pudding

Serves 8 to 12

Dorcas Raber said this dessert originated when a woman in her church used chocolate chip cookies instead of the graham crackers in the recipe she had gotten. “It really became a hit in our church,” she said. “Everyone just loves it.”

  • 6 cups milk
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 cups whipped topping
  • 4 dozen chocolate chip cookies (See page 60 of the book for a recipe or use your own favorite homemade or store bought cookies )
  • Peanut butter, for sandwiching the cookies

Heat 4½ cups of the milk in a large saucepan over medium heat until the milk is scalded (180°F). Whisk in the flour, sugar, salt, vanilla, egg yolks, and the remaining 1½ cups cold milk. Heat the milk mixture until thick, stirring continuously. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Fold in the whipped topping. Spread some peanut butter between two chocolate chip cookies to form a cookie sandwich. Repeat until all four dozen cookies have been used. Cut or crumble the cookie sandwiches into the pudding mixture, and stir until well combined.

The picture of Flat Rock Pudding is used by permission of the publisher. With the exception of the photo of Flat Rock Pudding, the photos accompanying this article are not from the book, but are used by permission of A Traveler’s Library. A Traveler’s Library lets you know about affiliate links. Links in this article to Amazon are for your convenience, but each purchase  will also make a few cents for Brette Sember and her site, Putting It All on the Table. Thanks!