The Scent of Cinnamon and Chasing Down Humoral Theory

Purple bougainvillea flowers hung thick and rope-like over the sand-colored walls, their little white hearts nearly pulsating in the blazing noon heat of Rabat, Morocco. The door of The English Bookshop stood half-opened. The stern English proprietor stood behind the counter, his thin pale fingers reaching into scuffed cardboard boxes, filled with the newest shipment of books…

The Gaza Kitchen: A Portrait of Cooking and Culinary Exile

Cookbooks, if you look closely, contain more than recipes. Even when recipes predominate – in books with no headnotes, contributor names, nothing more than ingredients and methods – you learn a lot about the people who wrote the books. By scrutinizing the text, you develop a sense of what’s important to the authors and the authors’ intended audience….

Of Purple, and of Scarlet: The Mysterious Pomegranate

“And beneath upon the hem of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof …” Exodus 28:33-34 Every autumn, just as leaves finally fall from the trees and gardens wilt and squashes go wild with bumps, I pass quickly by the bins of scarlet pomegranates…

Two Moons and a Ksar

It’s funny how sights, sounds, and smells trigger memories, isn’t it? Tastes, too. When I photographed a blue moon the other night, a very specific image bubbled up for me.* Perhaps, in a way, you could deem it a Proustian madeleine moment. Although I didn’t really eat anything. Standing there, trying to keep the camera…

War. Cook. Eat. Love.

Annia Ciezadlo, author of Day of Honey* (Free Press, 2011) , isn’t the first person to cook her way through trying times. Nor will she be the last. But the makeshift kitchens where Ms. Ciezadlo peeled purple eggplant or stirred onions caramelizing for Mjadara Hamra (Lentils with Bulgur Wheat) happened to be in a couple…

Mezze … and You Get a Curfew with That, Too

In Haiti, the earthquake of January 12, 2010 destroyed numerous lives and many structures, including Petionville’s cathedral and central plaza. Sadly, the people of Haiti still are suffering, from the effects of the earthquake and from a long tortured history. Like so many former French possessions, Haiti—once called France’s “Pearl of the Antilles”—still looks to…

Couscous in France: It’s a Long Story

To look at all the Maghrebi/North African restaurants in Paris, you might be tempted to think the food they serve appeared only recently in France. It’s not hard to visualize this scenario when you consider the exodus of pieds noirs and Harkis (local men who served as soldiers for France) that occurred as Algeria fought…

An Ancient Mediterranean Taste: France’s Boutargue

The Egyptians who fled to Marseille from Egypt after the Napoleonic debacle there  (1801) brought with them a hankering for batarekh, now called boutargue or poutargue in Provençal. Happily, Marseille happened to be a place where they could find batarekh, a caviar-like product made from the pressed and dried roes of grey mullets (Mugil cephalus)….