Peanuts and the Cooking of West Africa

Writers throw out the words "African cooking" all the time. I know. I have written same words, to my great embarrassment. But stop and think about something for a moment. The term "African cooking" is just as ridiculous as calling the cooking of Europe "European cooking," lumping together the cuisine of France with that of…

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Gleaning the Lessons of Wandering

This summer is different from all other summers. This summer I’m signed up for a weekly basket of local, organic vegetables from the rented land of some starry-eyed young farmers. And this week’s bounty included four cucumbers ranging from Lou Costello plumpness to Bud Abbott skinniness, six carrots resembling the clown-twisted balloons available at all…

* A Cuisine Created by Slave Women: A Review of Kitty Morse’s Mint Tea and Minarets, and a Brief Word about Dadas**

Dealing with the death of beloved parents takes a great toll on people, leading them on journeys of self-discovery often not possible while parents still live and breathe and exert influence on their adult child’s life. Rarely does settling up an inheritance take sixteen years of patience and hair-pulling, constantly reminding the bereaved of their…

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…

Eating Around the Empire in a Day: The 1931 Paris International Colonial Exposition

To her sons who have extended the empire of her genius and made dear her name across the seas, France extends her gratitude. ~~ Inscription on the facade of the colonial museum, now the Cité Nationale de l'Histoire de l'Immigration Before EuroDisney, people who might never be able to go to Tahiti or Senegal or…

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…

Fatéma Hal, Queen of Moroccan Cuisine in France

Fatéma Hal, a Moroccan chef with a penchant for busting female stereotypes, cooks traditional Moroccan food at her Parisian restaurant, La Mansouria (11, rue Faidherbe, 11th Arrondissement, Paris), opened in 1984. The restaurant began with only women working there, including Fatéma's mother, the cooking in "the hands of women." Unusual for France, non? One of…

Cooking with Saint-Pierre (John Dory)

As it fell on a holy-day, And vpon an holy-tide-a, Iohn Dory bought him an ambling nag, To Paris for to ride-a.* ~~ Child Ballad #284A: "John Dory" I first met John Dory at the open-air fish market in Rabat, Morocco. He's a solitary soul. Doesn't hang out too much with his own kind. And…

Cooking Fish — Let Us Count the World’s Ways: Africa

It's Lent. That means fish to a lot of people, even today, despite the relaxed rules of the Church. But how to cook fish? How to get past Mrs. Gorton's Fish Sticks? Many, many ways. Let's look at what people around the world do to get fish from the seas, rivers, and lakes from their…

In Morocco, Kitchens

Kitchens, a form of material culture, often determine the shape of the cuisine. By the limitations imposed by the tools, the food cooked reflects the process. A case of the medium is the message?** In the kitchens [of Morocco] there was a great assortment of wood dishes, like low corn measures, scrubbed white, as in…

In Morocco, Travelers’ Tales

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 "…

In Timeless Morocco

In 1917, American novelist Edith Wharton spent the month of September in Morocco. She wrote of her experiences in In Morocco (Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1920),  taking an apologist point of view for General Pierre Lyautey, the French governor of the day. Of Fes (Fez), she wrote: There it lies, outspread in golden light, roofs, terraces,…