“If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony.” – Fernand Point
So you have to admit that it’s kind of ironic that I’ve turned into a cooking/baking/brewing/pickling machine just as the Moroccans are about to begin fasting for Ramadan. I swear I’m not doing it on purpose! Although the thought of wafting heavenly smells into the streets as everyone is starving sounds like the perfect revenge for all the harassment I get. . . Ok, ok, enough with the evil thoughts.
Now I realize that some of you (Molly, Shelly, Amelia, Sarrah) might be laughing right now as I refer to myself as the wonderful Ms. Betty Crocker (yeah I know she’s not a real person); remembering the time when I made that inedible polenta pizza for a dinner party, when I mixed pasta sauce with tuna and frozen spinach and thought I was being really creative, when I added too much milk to the Kraft macaroni and cheese box thus rendering it into a gluey sort of paste (you’re thinking “how can she screw up mac and cheese???” Well I was like 12 ok. . .) Laugh it up all you like, but the verdict is in—people are now asking ME how to make things!
Moroccan housewives have given my homemade cinnamon rolls with frosting a two thumbs up and have even attended a private cooking session at my house to see how they were made. My host mother ran to grab her recipe notebook the second she tasted my vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting. And my chocolate-chip banana bread was TO DIE FOR if I do say so myself. I know I’m getting a little cocky here, but as the girl who got laughed at because she didn’t know that you had to use a 2-1 water to rice ratio when cooking rice, it feels so damn good to finally be getting some praise.
So what am I cooking, you ask? Well, considering that baking ingredients are probably the easiest to get here in Morocco I’ve been experimenting mostly with that. I’ve made cakes, chocolate chip cookies (though still haven’t quite mastered these yet), peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip banana bread, and scones. Also, in order to attain my dream of one day owning my own Bed and Breakfast and serving fabulous breakfasts to my guests I’ve also been trying my hand at various breakfast items like frittatas, heuvos rancheros, cinnamon rolls, banana pancakes, crepes, and delicious homemade oatmeal. And finally, I can now add 3, count ‘em 3!!, soups from scratch to my repertoire. Chunky tomato soup is my specialty but my chicken and vegetable and Italian Wedding soups aren’t too shabby either.
With the intense heat of the summer (it’s been in the 100s for the past week with no end in sight), my desire to bake has decreased slightly which is why I’ve decided to expand my culinary experimentation in new directions. After a good friend tried it, I’ve started brewing (??) my own moonshine! (Something about the word moonshine makes me think I should be wearing a beat-up old leather hat, a button-down shirt with a patch in it, and holding a banjo around a campfire. . .) I’m attempting to make some peach liquor which should be ready to drink (umm, I mean sip. . .) in a few weeks. I’m also hoping to try some pickling. The Polish dill pickle-eater in me has been completely underwhelmed by the itty bity cornichons that the Moroccans eat which are way too sour and utterly lacking in garlic. I’ve done my research and it seems that making a good pickle is actually quite complicated so we’ll see what happens.
I guess the truth is that I’ve always wanted to be a good cook but never really had the time or money to explore the hobby. While I still don’t really have the money, I do have the time. Other than the obvious benefits of impressing your friends with tasty treats, cooking has come to be really cathartic for me. And interestingly enough, what I’ve realized is that cooking has proven to be analogous to event-planning here in Morocco—I put everything I’ve got into the mixture, mix it up well, and hope for the best. Sometimes the result turns out flawlessly, exceeding my expectations (chocolate chip banana bread, INJAZ Entrepreneurship Masterclass) and other times it’s an utter failure (burnt lamb pot roast, last year’s summer camp in El Borouj). As someone who has control issues (just ask my boyfriend. . .) it’s good for me to learn that you can only do so much. In the end, some things just work out and others don’t. And when it doesn’t, you just clean up the dishes and figure out what to do better next time.