Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Homebody Travels - Morocco


Morocco is about the same geographical size as California, bordering the Meditteranean sea to the north west, and the Atlantic Ocean to the north east.  It is composed of fertile plains, a Mediterranean coastline, and the Atlas Mountains (near the Algerian border).  The Berbers were (more or less) the nations original inhabitants, but throughout its history Morocco has been annexed by the Roman Empire (AD 46), invaded by Arabs (circa 685, which brought in Islam), and were at colonized by the French and Spanish in the early 19th century.  The nation finally gained in dependence in 1956.

In an interesting, non-historically related factoid: in Moroccan culture the liver, not the heart, is considered the symbol of love.

I will admit that before we selected "Morocco" from our little bowl of paper slips with countries on them, I knew little to nothing about Moroccan music. I can't say that I 'know' much now, but it is something slightly more than "nothing."  I did however eventually stumble upon a (likely over generalized) synopsis of various Moroccan music types.  I think what I found most intriguing about Moroccan music is the combination of spoken poetry with folk instrumentation, which may include: lutes, symbols, fiddles, zithers, and goblet drums.

When researching Moroccan cuisine, various versions of stew came up quite frequently, so that is what we settled on to cook.  The recipe we found seemed hearty, quick to make, and had chickpeas (and who doesn't like chickpeas or at least like saying the word "chickpeas").

Soups and stews somewhat make themselves but here are the steps spelled out just the same (our version served 4)

1. Saute half an onion in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
2. add in: 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, salt and pepper to taste (if you see the recipe hyper-linked above, it calls for cumin & cayenne pepper...we just were fresh out...)
2. Add in 3 cups of water, 1 chopped medium-sized potato, 2 chopped large carrots, 2 chopped roma tomatoes.

3. Bring to a boil
4. Reduce heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender
5. Add in 1 chopped (1-inch pieces) zucchini and 1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas.  Return to boil.
6. Reduce heat and let simmer for 5-8 minutes or until all vegetables are tender

By chopping all vegetables in large pieces, this gives the stew a sort of chili-like composition and is very sustaining (not to mention it plates pretty).  We were curious about how the cinnamon would work out in a soup, but we are both sold on the idea now.  Cinnamon, while often used in desserts, adapts itself well to savory stews...and makes the whole house smell amazing.  We agreed that it was the key ingredient to this culinary success.

There were a few choices of films that feature scenes shot in Morocco...and we selected Gladiator.  The opening scenes aren't shot there, but most of the Roman empire portions were filmed on sets in Morocco.  The dessert caravan scenes especially played to what we imagine much of Morocco would be like, so it suited the bill...and it's a great movie anyway: history, action, and an awesome score to boot.

what we do in life
echoes in eternity

I had a hard time finding Moroccan poetry in translation online for some reason (I blame the Wikipedia labyrinth).  I am sure there is a wealth of it somewhere, I just got lost when being linked from one link to the next.  However, I found the lyrics to the Moroccan national anthem to be insightful to the culture and people, as most anthems are I suppose.  But, given it's Mediterranean climate and it's (primarily) Islamic composition, the emphasis on the sublime and light seem an accurate encapsulation of imagery that would often appear in Moroccan poetry (had I succeeded in finding more to read):

Fountain of Freedom, Source of Light
Where sovereignty and safety meet,
Safety and sovereignty May you ever combine!
You have lived among nations With title sublime,
Filling each heart, Sung by each tongue,
Your champion has risen And answered your call.
In my mouth And in my blood
Your breezes have stirred Both light and fire.
Up! my brethren, Strive for the highest.
We call to the world That we are here ready.
We salute as our emblem
God, Homeland, and King. 


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