Local Perspectives Can Become Global Over a Hearty Meal

I aspire to be Anthony Bourdain when I grow up. If I could make money by traveling, eating and having an off-color sense of humor, I’d basically be living the life I live in Morocco anyway. Hear that, Travel Channel? We’ll be in touch.

That is a half carcass of sheep. As in, like, half a sheep that me and my Moroccan friends ate, not with forks, but bread.

I’m a self-named foodie. I made a sincere effort to make Moroccan food before coming here, am slowly but surely perfecting khobz, the standard Moroccan bread and look for any excuse possible to stick my nose in a jar of saffron in the old Medina. If someone tells me to eat something, I generally will, following Andrew Zimmern’s advice to “Always try something twice.”

I spend way too much time watching the Travel Channel at home. But the one thing television can never truly capture is the cultural experience of eating.

Moroccan farm lunch
Lunch with our good friends entailed kefta, olives and Moroccan salad, which was eaten with, well, bread.

Don’t get me wrong, they try. They send hosts to hang out with locals and eat a classic dish from whatever country they’re in. But in every place I’ve had the opportunity to travel, within Meknes and outside of Meknes, the differences in regional cuisine are trumped by the similar way in which they tell you to eat, eat, eat. Then eat more. And a little more. And just when you think you’re going to faint from being so full, they insist on tea served with, well, more food.

There are hole-in-the-wall snack shops on every corner, men cooking snails and hacking coconuts at tables set up in the street and behind seemingly every door, a family who just wants to make couscous and talk with you about life.

Charwarma for lunch. Meat and vegetables wrapped in… Bread.

My political views on Facebook are “Make cupcakes, not war,” and I have said many times that if diplomats just met over tea and a meal, the world would be a more peaceful place. A little fat and salt could change the world.

Maybe that’s romantic or idealistic, but on a micro level, I truly believe food and the inherent need to be around other people can allow us to overcome our differences, even when American and Moroccan cultures meet. Just take my experience as an example. My Moroccan friends invite us over regularly to eat dinner and watch the Barcelona Football Club play. My roommate’s boyfriend’s mother, without ever meeting me and the rest of her friends, has invited us over to lunch one day. Even flirty Moroccan boys invite you to visit their families on “Couscous Fridays.”

Moroccan bread
Look! Bread! More cultures should seriously consider doing away with utensils. Anywhere I can eat with my fingers and carbohydrates is a good place for me.

Morocco is an extremely food-oriented culture, no matter where in the country you go. That has been the most unifying quality of Moroccans. Language, education level and style of dress all differ from city to city.

Being an American in Morocco, I’ve discovered we’re not so different. No matter where we’re from in the country or the world, our perspectives and needs are all ultimately the same. Morocco is an extremely food-oriented culture, no matter where in the country you go. At the end of the day, everyone can bond over a warm meal and some good conversation.

Happy travels.

Katie Gillespie
Meknes, Morocco
Spring 2012

You can follow Katie’s other adventures on her personal blog katieversustheworld.wordpress.com.

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