In the following passage, from R. B. Cunninghame Graham’s Mogreb-El-Aska (1898), Cunninghame Graham describes (in somewhat superior tones!) the spirit of communal eating in Morocco of the times (late nineteenth century):**
Swani and Mohammed-el-Hosein were radiant, more especially because the Kaid had sent a sheep, which they had already slain and given to a ” master ” (maalem) to roast en barbecue. Although I personally was disappointed that we had not been able either to get an answer from the Kaid as to our return, still less to get permission to go on, yet I was glad to have seen him, placed as I was, and wondered if an English Duke in the Georgian times would have treated an Arab wandering in England, and giving out he was an English clergyman, as well as the wild, semi-independent Berber Sheikh treated the wandering Englishman who assumed to pass, not merely as a clergyman, but as a saint.
Four men appeared bearing the sheep on a huge wooden dish, smoking and peppered so as to start us sneezing; and when the Maalem had torn it into convenient portions with his hands, we all fell to, Lutaif and I with an appetite that civilisation gives for such a meal; the rest like wolves, or men remembering the Hispano-Moorish proverb to the effect that meat and appetite go not always together, though both are sent by God.
Cunninghame Graham is talking about a form of méchoui (from the Arabic, meaning roasted on a fire, though some people called oven-roasted lamb by the same word).
**For the next few weeks, I am going to be on a “working vacation,” so my posts will be somewhat more abbreviated. I will still provide you with something substantial to chew on, though!
© 2009 C. Bertelsen