Chickens, Bunnies, and Veggies – Oh My!
**Warning: Vegetarians, proceed with caution!**
This morning I awoke with excitement and anticipation as I had scheduled a cooking class with the chef at my riad in Marrakech, Morocco. After breakfast, we were to walk to the traditional market to buy fresh, local ingredients. Later that day, I would learn all the secret tips of a Morracan kitchen! My guide Miloda speaks Arabic and French – two languages I have zero knowledge of. Throughout my travels, I have always found other ways to communicate, and this was no exception. With only smiles and gestures as our shared language, we were off.
Entering the local Jewish market, I was greeted with an overwhelming scent of animal. I’m fairly certain I was in a state of shock as I quickly realized my soon to be future. Our first stop, chicken for the tagine…but not just ordinary supermarket chicken. Before me I stared at hundreds of live chickens, awaiting their untimely death, or rather soon to be my dinner. Unaware of my hesitancy, Miloda continues through the narrow market aisles and finds her favorite chicken stall. She then chooses an unfortunate chicken and using an old level scale, weighs a live chicken, as it flaps around in protest. My mind is racing and I think to myself, “Oh, what have you gotten yourself into this time??” The man then proceeds to take care of the chicken, according to instructions given to him that I am unable to understand. Having grown up in the country and having been around a variety of farm animals throughout my childhood, I am not naive to the process of butchering…rather I prefer to be blissfully happy in my bubble, not thinking about where the supermarket chicken comes from. Eventually, upon seeing my white-washed face, my guide thankfully ushers me to the animal-free fruit and veggie part of the market – Merci!
Through gestures, smiles, and a lot of pointing, we continued on with our shopping of fruit, veggies, and my favorite – freshly prepared phyllo dough made right before my eyes. I have never seen such work, a skill mastered by this man and I’m certain having been passed down from generations long ago.
**TIP – Go shopping with a local. Locals know where to buy the best food and personally know the vendors. Although I’m certain I have “TOURIST” written in neon letters on my forehead, when shopping with a local, my tourist status seems to magically disappear.
Upon leaving, a lovely florist gave me a rose, just because, a simple gesture that made my heart smile. We slowly meandered back to our riad through the alley mazes of the medina. A detour to view traditional wedding dresses and watch as a local was draped in beautiful fabrics for her upcoming day. Although I’m not 100% certain, I think that Miloda invited me to be her guest at a wedding this weekend…unfortunately I leave tomorrow.
In just a few hours, my cooking lesson begins – to be continued…