Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Veggie Tales part une

I don't know if I have ever mentioned how much food my kids eat. Some people complain that they have kids that won't eat. Mine don't stop. They are consumed with food and consume it in mass quantities. My oldest is only 11 and I can't imagine how I'm going to keep up with the increasing demand for food once they are teenagers. I think we need to become Freegans. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the fact that my kids love to eat and I love to cook (and love to eat too). So most days it's a perfectly symbiotic relationship. It's just that we go through food so fast it seems as though I live at the store and in the kitchen. Again, on most days I don't mind, at least not in the states where I could get any ingredient I wanted for any exotic dish on a whim. BUT, here in Morocco this process is alot more challenging than back in the states. Can I get those ingredients here? And if I can what the heck would they be called? Where do I get them from the souk, the supermarket or some black market guy I meet by the Kasbah at 10am with the goods? "I got 20 Dirhams did you bring the stuff? You know what I'm talking about.....the Romaine?"

Don't misunderstand, it's not as if my kids just naturally eat anything without whining and say "oh goody mum I can't wait for the kidney pie we're having for dinner, it smells so delicious. Thank you, thank you mummy." (Just as a disclaimer, I have never actually served organ meats and my kids don't talk with an English accent, normally) My dinner time food philosophy is this: I make one healthy dish for dinner. You can eat it, or just have salad (which we had on the dinner table every night in Colorado, here in Morocco it's hit or miss depending on good lettuce availability) or not eat at all. I think on two occasions a child of mine has chosen the not eating dinner option.

I hope that someday my kids will thank me for my adventurous, freakishly pseudo-gourmetish cooking tendencies. Either that or forgive me. I know that if this day ever comes it will be in the very, very distant future or in some other dimension. I'll probably be too old and senile by then to appreciate it anyway and I'll only remember how "fun and fantastic" every second of parenting was (quote marks denote sarcasm here, just for clarification). Some days I would take a little temporary senility, just for an hour maybe once a month. Some moms might prefer a massage. I frankly will take whatever works some days: senility...massage....dark Maybe an elixir of all the above.

So the other day after a morning of never-ending breakfast bar omelet making (where they ate their way through a whole dozen eggs), I was prepping some stuffed peppers. The girls walked into the kitchen and I had the big mixing bowl out which is usually synonymous with cookies, banana bread or some other tasty treat. "Whatcha makin'?" they ask hopefully. I know this will crush them, so I answer through a gritted teeth smile. "Stuffed Peppers", I say trying to exude optimism. "Ugggggghhhhh....we always have stuffed peppers!" Jade says with disdain. It's true. We eat them alot. It's my back up dish, because you can always find peppers here. Sure they may be covered in fruit flies, but you can always find them. Even though they are disappointed I'm happy that I don't have to make a trip to the store to get anything for it. Except, damn it......the kids ate every last egg in the house and now I have to go to #$% @#%^ Label Vie (the nearest and dearest grocery store to my house) to get some $%^&(@# eggs to finish these $%^&*#$ peppers that everyone will whine about eating! %#^@ it!!!

So, I grudgingly (to say the least) run to the store for some %$#%$ eggs. I'm so pissed to have to go mid day when it is insanely busy. And if you have never been to a grocery store in Morocco in the middle of the day, let me assure you it sucks worse than any Walmart story you could ever tell me. I will lose AT LEAST one hour of my life this trip even though I came for one item. From eggs (which are not refrigerated by the way, for you Americans out there), I spot the ridiculously expensive imported asparagus in produce. Suddenly, I don't care how much it costs, how much oil was used to get it from whatever farm it was grown at in whatever country or how many pesticides were used to grow it. I'm buying the &*(^%$*#/2 asparagus! Produce weigher guy thought I was simply weird American chick before, but I'm sure I'm now crazy American chick for buying what is the equivalent of $20 worth of asparagus. I don't care. It's a vegetable emergency!

Now you're asking yourself why would I be so excited over asparagus? If you have asked that question you obviously live in the US where you can get asparagus (or anything else you might crave) anytime you want it . AND you can go through the express lane and be in and out of the store in 10 minutes flat or less. I am so envious! Back to the point, ever since my kids were really little I have made them "Superhero soup", to disguise the fact that it's actually asparagus soup. The charade was over a few years ago when they saw me make it and learned that they really do love asparagus. Now they will TELL you they don't like asparagus, but they slurp down that soup like it's a beer bong at a frat party.

So I chop, simmer and puree to perfection. When the kids get home from school, Jade opens the door and draws in a breath and her eyes get big. "Is that THE soup?" she asks excitedly. "Yup" I say a big smile reserved just for this occasion. I think I would have paid more for that asparagus just to have this moment. Then I start making my favorite whole wheat salmon, goat cheese and corn quesadillas. I made the kids some cheese quesadillas, but when it comes time to eat dinner they actually WANT to try the salmon quesadillas. Strangely, even though my kids would proclaim that they don't like salmon, they love them. Every slurp and every crumb is gone. No leftovers. Damn. While there is no more soup to be slurped, there is the lingering gift of asparagus eaten. If you're an avid asparagus eater you may already know that if you have a variant on your rs4481887 gene eating it will cause your pee to smell way more putrid than pee normally smells. What's more fun than an informal morning after survey in which you get to describe in detail how putrid your pee smells? This is the extra added bonus of asparagus soup for me....errrrrr....I mean my kids.

So what's the moral of the story? I will let you come to your own conclusion via multiple choice:

a. Sometimes expense doesn't matter.

b. Sometimes all that matters is making the whining stop for 10 minutes

c. I was traumatized by my parents who routinely forced me to eat strange and unusual organ meats.

d. If you're senile do you notice that you have funky asparagus smelling pee or do you just not care? (Ok...that was more of a general question.)

e. (Fill in your own answer here.)

And please remember, if your child thumbs their nose up at the dinner that you've made for them please tell them there are starving children in Africa. I can provide our address...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Color of my Soul

The Orange Soul is flamboyant and warm-hearted, generous and gregarious. The life and soul of all things. Orange follows their gut instincts, instigates change and loves to entertain you. The Orange Soul longs to be free and explore.

Orange is my favorite color. Actually black and grey are my favorites too, but some might argue that they really aren't colors in their own right, but the culmination of all the colors. So again, I say my single most favorite pure, unadulterated color is orange. The thing with orange is, you can't help but see it. It's not boring brown, it's not sexy red, it's not happy yellow or serious green. Orange is goofy. And over the course of the last two weeks it has crept up everywhere.

Here in Morocco not many people know that I am the proud owner of a 1969 Kharmann Ghia named crush in the most lovely, vibrant orange. A gift from my husband for my 40th birthday. Somehow, it has not only come up in conversation, but has been brought up by the other person I'm talking to in some strange way. Which got me to thinking. I hope my friend Kirsten, Ghia-sitter extraordinaire, is doing her job and driving it around with the top down looking really hot. (And yes, the looking really hot part is part of the deal.) Please Colorado Springians....if you see Crush (and you'll know it's Crush by the kick ass Pike's Peak Derby Dame's sticker on the front windshield), please send me reports of your sightings. There will be a special prize for anyone sending in a picture of Kirsten looking very hot while in it....or on it, as the case may be. (I have my reasons....)

Orange encounter number 2: I'm at Etam (my new favorite store) and they have an orange one piece bathing suit for 75% off. Now I knew this wouldn't fit me because I'm super long waisted and any one piece turns out to be a thong on me, even though it's not intended to be. And then it's super cheap. So it's not looking good. I try it on and start doing my happy dance in the changing room when it fits absolutely perfectly. YAY!!!

The next week, I'm shopping for groceries at Marjane (which is like Morocco's Walmart, except that it's wares are even worse and the lines are even longer). I'm looking in the dollar bins, or dirham bins rather, and there is an orange 9X9 pan for less than $5. Except that I don't need one, I already have a glass 9x9 pan. I contemplate and pass it up. While edging my cart closer to the groceries I see it. It's the most beautiful small appliance I've ever's an orange espresso maker for about $10! I don't drink espresso, but damn it....I'm going to now! It's perfectly streamlined and it's so orange it's almost comical I start asking people I know if they know how to make espresso so I can figure out how to christen it properly. I can't stop talking about it. I carry a picture around with me on my cell phone of it so I can show it to people. They think I'm weird. Everyone does.

I'm out looking for a birthday present which I find successfully, but I'm right near Marjane which still has that 9x9 pan. Hmmmmmm. I don't need it, but come on it's less than $5. I will give you that $5 if you know of someone else who has a 9x9 pan that they paid less than $5 for. There you go. Pan in cart. Since my last Marjane trip they added more items to the bin. They have coffee cups (I LOVE coffee cups) with yes....come know where this is orange rim for less than $1 each! I am obligated to get them to match the espresso maker that I don't know how to make espresso from. SOLD!

Last week, my friend Kim and I go on an adventure to find the English Bookstore in Rabat (which amazingly we found and is aptly named ENGLISH BOOKSTORE) and go to the Medina. While at the Medina I pass by a silver necklace with an orange stone. Intrigued even though it looks less than stellar on display, I ask to see it and the store owner takes it out and puts it on me. It looks great with my skin tone and face he says. Which makes me laugh in his face, cause it's a load of crap. Then he laughs too. And he who laughs last.......well he sells some jewelry! We decide we're done and head out. On the way out, I find a hand of fatima candle (I thought I could just skip saying it's orange at this point). Kim and I discuss how well we did at the Medina, how great the day has been and we make it to the car. It's booted!

Now the point at which I determined that I needed, like really needed to write a post on my orange experiences came when I noticed that the boot.....well it was also ORANGE! Kim and I laughed our asses off. Here's two white, white American women standing on the sidewalk opposing an orange booted car laughing hysterically. We learn that you need to pay the automated machine and put a ticket in your window to park in the spots with the blue dotted lines. Ohhhhhhhhhhhh. Lesson learned. The Friday afternoon call to prayer is bellowing and everyone is passing by us on their way to Mosque. Someone will come to take this boot off inshallah (god willing).

What does this all mean? It must be a sign of something bigger. So I do what all soul searchers do. I google. I look up soul colors and sure enough someone has categorized soul colors and their meaning (and is selling products that can help you determine your very own soul color). How does one get that job? I think I'd be very good at it. It's got alot of cool information on the site, but I'm not paying to find out my soul color. This is a solemn soul searching event. Not soul color prostitution. So, I look for a free alternative to to accurately determine my soul color. Free quiz on facebook? BINGO! And guess what color my soul is? I don't need to say it do I?

Maybe it's not about my soul at all. Maybe the boot on my car just meant I should stop buying orange things? Naaaah, probably not....
(If you or someone you love is having a soul color emergency you can access Please have your credit card handy. I in no way earn a commission off the sale of their products.)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Holy couscous!

Mohammed works at our house 5 days a week, not out of our necessity, but this is the way things are done here. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday he works inside the house cleaning. It is completely unusual in this culture to have a male housekeeper. (We're so progressive over here.) Mohammed, the Renaissance man, is also our gardener on Saturday and Sunday. And it's in the garden where my kids love to toil with him. At dinner when the kids all share stories about the wealthy priviledged kids they go to school with I often talk of Mohammed (who has five children) as the real life example of how most Moroccans live. He of course knows none of this because he speaks Arabic and French and I can barely speak English, let alone anything else.

My kids don't care what he speaks they talk his ear off. They always come and report the things that Mohammed says to them. And I'm like really? He told you in French (which the kids take at school) or in English? I always take these reports with a heaping dose of skepticism. And I think we all know at this point that I indeed am an idiot.
Saturdays, Sundays and actually every day is a flurry of activity for us. The kids have dance, taekwondo, basketball, scouts, sleepovers, play dates....etc. So we are home in tiny segments rushing in and out in our bustling American way. I wonder what he thinks as he watches all the coming and going at our house. Maybe he's just happy not to be at home with his own 5 children, but I don't get that sense at all from him. He truly loves children and animals. I thought he was going to cry when we relocated the fish in our fish pond to make a garden instead. When I saw the look on his face I felt so guilty I put the fish up for adoption and I wanted to keep those high maitenenece fish just for him. But then he was so excited to show my kids that the turtle who lives in our yard (who we've named Mary because of the immaculate conception that must have occurred in the absence of a male) had 3 adorable babies (named Huey, Louie and Dewey). He's a truly gentle and loving soul.

So Jade comes to me Saturday morning and says she was having a conversation with Mohammed and that she told him that she liked couscous. Then she tells me that he said that he's going to bring us couscous tonight. "You must have misunderstood" I tell her. Sure that I was right and she was wrong in a conversation that I wasn't privy to in the first place. He lives faraway in Sale the town north of Rabat. It isn't actually that far, but considering Mohammed drives a moped, which is his family's only vehicle, it is far. We go on with our day of driving the kids to boy scouts/girl scouts, back home, out again to drop Ember off at a party and out to the Medina to run errands. When we return he has already left after a days work and we settle into finishing homework, making dinner and eating it on the patio. After some home made haircuts a' la mama and some quick showers, the kids pop in a movie before bed and have some pop corn and ice cream.
It's 8pm, pitch dark and the doorbell rings. I don't think much of it because our doorbell rings alot, so I think it's someone at the wrong house. Then I hear "It's Mohammed". Jade is beaming. "See I told you mom!" Oh my god, she was right. Mohammed has brought an enormous plate full of couscous, beef, carrots, cabbage AND that HNG ( huge nameless gourd )! Not the whole thing of course. I am so overwhelmed I don't even have words other than "Merci beaucoup", mostly because that's about all that I know. And then I add "shoocran" in Arabic, again about all the Arabic I know. It smells fantastic. He seems uncomfortable with the thank yous as if the deed speaks for itself. He places it on the counter and leaves with a "bye" and his ever present smile. What's super cool is my kids know exactly how huge this is! We crowd around the plate ohhing and ahhing. How did he get here on the moped? Did he take a taxi? How did it get here from Sale still warm? How did he afford this? But mostly we are just overwhelmed by his generosity and that his family took the time, the expensive and the thoughtfulness to cook for our family. And all because Jade said she liked couscous. I feel guilty cause the kids and I are are stuffed from having eaten our earlier American dinner and later American snacking. We decide to save it for the next night's dinner.
The next morning the kids want to make something American for Mohammed and his family. An American dinner? Well that's going to McDonald's to order 5 happy meals and two adult meals with explicit instructions to eat it cold while driving them to soccer practice and yelling at them while talking on his cell phone. Or should he be texting? Either way, that's the authentic American dinner experience right? Then I thought about it and Mohammed only has a moped, so this wasn't going to work. So, we decided to bake brownies for our cultural exchange. They made us a ginormous tagine and we reciprocate with some brownies. Don't worry, they were from the box so they are authenic American brownies. I am more than aware that this has not been an equal exchange of time, effort or quantity and I feel so lame. Then again....we Americans sell our culture all around the world. It's cheap and accessible anywhere. Everyone anywhere in the world is sold the great American way every 8.5 seconds in one way or another (even faster if youse is citified folks). I feel so generic and exposed right now. Hold me!
The next night rolls around slowly, with all the twist and turns provided by a family of four kids and a dad that's away in Swaziland for the week. (I hear it's like New Jersey.) The kids are so excited to eat the tagine. We decide that we are going to do it Moroccan style. Well, not really. The Moroccan way to eat a tagine is eating it off the serving plate with your hands. While I think that would be totally cool, I have two kids with coughs and runny noses and I prefer not to have 4. And if you have kids you know that they use the closest free hand to wipe their boogery nose. Last week I witnessed one of my kids execute the longest nose wipe which went all the way from the tips of said child's fingers to his elbow. With that visual freshly imprinted on my mind I decided to do it quasi-Moroccan style eating from the same plate but with spoons. It is delicious and strangely, no matter how much we doesn't seem to make a dent. We have eaten tons of it, spilled it eating like barbarians ( semi-barbarians anyway). It's all over the table and it is somehow replicating itself. My name is couscous.... (applause) thanks ....I'll be here all week. Goodnight everybody! (Waving hand while exiting stage left). We can't wait for the encore presentaion of the leftovers tomorrow night!
Now if I can only get Jade to tell Mohammed how much she loves goat...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tales of my Flip Flops

Everyday I wear the same flip flops. Not the nice ones either. I think I may have paid all of $2 for them and that was a couple years ago. This means two things. First they are molded to my feet perfectly and second there is a stench that I can not wash out of them no matter how much I try. And trust me I have tried. It doesn't matter what the occasion is, my flip flops will be worn. The exception being when the weather gets too cold. Then I make the big winter transition and sport my very worn, very similarly stenchy wooden clogs. (Yes, I know no one else has worn clogs since 1976, but I don't care.)

This is the week in the life of my flip flops. The week starts with an open meeting of an International Women's Group. They visit orphanages, clean up the environment, have international speakers, and promote world peace... you know, all that good stuff. Of course I'm going to go. Oh yeah, and it's hosted at the American Ambassador's house. First question. Can I wear my flip flops? I will try to wash the stank out first....I mean for world peace and all. I get gussied up: cute sundress, earrings, semi-stankalicious flip flops. (I do what I can.)

Let me skip for a moment to the next day when I'm wearing my standard daily uniform of a t-shirt, jeans and dot da da favorite flip flops. (I do change the t-shirt and jeans daily for your information.) I'm headed to the wrong side of the tracks where I have left 2 dresses for alterations. Now in the states I would never have something altered by a tailor, but here where this service is dirt cheap I'm gonna alter everything to perfection simply because I can. I drive up and Habib isn't there. The name is fictitious. I don't know his name, the name of the shop or the name of the part of town I'm in and it doesn't really matter anyway. He'll be back in a few minutes is what I get even though I don't know Arabic. This is what I discern from the 3 guys talking to me in what must be the world's tinniest tailor shop. Think Fotomat with no drive through window and lots of spools of thread, a sewing machine and random fabrics strewn about.

I have never seen the US Ambassador to Morocco before (or his house for that matter). That is until now. Oh my god, he looks like a Jewish Tony Bennett! I'm dying to share this overwhelming realization with the Moroccan lady that I walk in next to or get out my camera for a picture. Cause's uncanny! I do neither, but do manage to introduce myself without my goofy giggle or referring him as Tony (cause we're on a first name basis and all). The get together is on the back patio. Damn it, at least I get to walk through part of the house to get there. They have alot of orange accents in the house. I like it and want to take pictures (with my orange camera) I think security would escort me out if I sneak my camera out to take a picture because that may make me look like a terrorist. It's actually far more likely that I'd look like a crazy 40 year old lady with stinky feet and penchant for matchy-matchy poo-pooness. And that that would be far more embarrassing!

So okay. I've got some time to kill until Habib comes back to man the Tail-o-mat booth. It looks like there is lots to see down the street, so I head into the crowds. I meander into a store and start looking at the wares. It seems these wares have been wored before. This brings me back to when we first moved and I put my garbage out to the curb and it disappeared. I now know where it goes! Right here. I'm suspiciously looking for anything that was formerly mine. Not that I want it back or anything. If I do see something I would like to traverse the path that it took to get from my house to here. I'm not sure how I would do that backtracking. But these are the things that invade my thoughts. My quick scan of the place reveals that nothing's mine. So I walk on til I see a huge expanse of stale Moroccan bread sitting on the side of the streets. This bread was deliberately placed within certain confines of the sidewalk squares. Puzzling. Is it meant to feed the cats or is it wishful thinking that this is the Moroccan Bread Triangle where it will simply disappear on it's own? It's apparent I have stumbled into Rabat's answer to recycling.

I make my way onto the patio where they are serving iced tea (with ice American is that)and lemonade. It's mingling time before any of the official welcomes and you-should-join-us-because-ness starts. The women are split about 60/40 and the ball is in the Moroccans court. I find a table and am the token caucasian. I'm a terrible mingler. And I always assume wallflower status until I remember I'm only invisible if I'm drinking wine. Which I'm not. Crap. I'll go by the cookies and see if I can make small talk about the spread without dropping my plate, spilling something or.....snorting. Wish me luck.

I'm walking further into the land of Recycleville. I think I've hit the heart of it, the fruit and vegetable stands where they sell those gourds of unusual sizes. Someday I'm gonna buy it and cook it, but not today. I only have large bills with me and I'm trying to maintain a low profile and blend. ethnic blending. So I'm walking and see two African workmen. The color of their skin clearly identifies them as foreigners. I smile and look away occupied with the rotting vegetables that now line the street. (More recycling.) Then they say in perfect English. "Hi. How are you?" Yeah, I forgot I'm totally foreign too. I find it strange that they nail that I speak English though. I could have been French, Dutch, German, Austrian, Russian, or any mix thereof. Was it the fact that I smiled or that I'm wearing flip flops? And where is my invisibility wine again? I meander back through the market to the Tail-o-mat and Habib is back and has my dresses ready. They are perfectly tailored and dirt cheap. Now I need to go home and find more things that need to be tweaked.

I make it through the snack buffet without major incident and make some small talk here and there with some Moroccan women. Great meaningful conversation like " your head scarf!" and "these cookies are delicious are they made with almonds and honey?" and I meet a professor who teaches biology at the local university and we chat a bit. I've chatted it up with some Americans that I know there and then I meet some that I have never crossed paths with before. I get to talking to two women in their 50's. I don't remember their names and I wouldn't tell them to you even if I did. We talk about what they do and where they have been. They are both so nice and friendly. They talk about how they lived in Mali or was it Malawi together? One of those anyhow. So I'm so totally in sync with what they are saying and it reaches one of those points in the conversation where you need to say something. So I tilt my head and say "How great that you two get to travel the world together!" Momentary pause. Their eyes get big, they look at each other. "NO, no, no". Then they scramble with "our husbands", blah, blah, blah. Oh, I totally read this all wrong, they're NOT gay! AWKWARD!!! Then the speeches abruptly start. I didn't even have enough time to laugh it off or whatever further awkwardness came next. The thing is, I know I will see them again. The circle of Americans affiliated with the Embassy is small so it's not a question of if, but a question of when.

So the big lesson I learned this week. I don't have the tools for appropriate social interaction. And it's apparent to me that I've been travelling too light. So, here's my new packing list:

1. Carry and 8x10 glossy of Tony Bennett and a sharpie pen for chance encounters and autograph opportunities.

2. Always have small bills on hand to spontaneously buy an enormous gourd.

3. Obtain a flask for instant invisibility wine and don't leave home without it.

4. A working gaydar.

5. Haul a crowbar to pry my foot out of my mouth.

I need to go back to Habib at the Tail-o-mat to have him make a cute little bag, or probably more like a big suitcase with wheels to carry all this crap around with me!

Monday, September 13, 2010

All About Eid

The title to this post is stolen from the 1950's classic movie All About Eve. Which, um......ok.....I never saw. What's the correlation you ask? I didn't see the movie and I didn't see Eid (the 3 day party marking the end of Ramadan) either. I did have some Eid experiences, but not in the spiritual or enlightened kind. I would equate it more to Fast Food Nation. Ok....I'm gonna come clean....I totally didn't see that one either...

Disappointment number 1.....I learned this isn't the Eid where they slaughter goats en mass as I posted in Cooking with Fatty. That's the Eid in November. Ok, at least I have a couple months to perfect my goat wrestling and try to somehow obtain a front row ticket to the festivities. I'm gonna start working on that.

Disappointment number 2.....if I can't be part of Eid we can take the 3 day weekend to get out of dodge and travel. Unbeknownst to me, travelling during Eid is much like travelling Thanksgiving weekend in the states. If you haven't made your plans and bought your tickets months in advance you ain't goin' nowhere. Even if you are going to see your family you may have to weigh if the crowds, travelling and destination are truly worth it. How much do I love Uncle Fred? Is it really worth it to listen to his same stupid jokes over and over again and you know how Aunt Stella's cooking gives him gas...

Let me hit the highlights of the weekend:

*When the doorbell rings and wakes you up in the middle of the night and some big Moroccan guys are at your door they aren't terrorists. You only know this because you reason that they probably wouldn't ring the doorbell if they were. It's just the garbage men asking for their Eid gift. Of course you can't figure that out right away cause you're groggy and disillusioned from being awoken in the middle of the night and on top of that you don't speak French! It will take an hour or so after they've gone to figure out what they wanted and by that time they are long with only your garbage. Oops....can you say social faux pas?

*In fact, the doorbell rings all weekend long with people we don't know asking for an Eid gift.

* The kids do homework. I can't believe I'm actually excited my kids have homework to fill the void. It's also apparent that I should not help with geography homework in addition to math...

*We got Flat Stanley sent to us from our friends in the states for a school project. We could go take pictures all around town, but all the interesting stuff is closed. Damn it!

*The kids come up with a crafty I love Maddy sign for the cat so she can read it while she eats. I personally think that they hung it a little too high for her to "read" it. Oh yeah and she can't read cause she's a cat. But at least the project filled a whole whopping 30 minutes!

*We look at the kids school vacation calendar and our travel wish list. We figure, if we can't travel at least we can plan our next travel adventures. Turns out our wish list is much longer than the kids vacation time which is turn is bigger than our travel budget.

* We are so desperate for something, anything to do that we go to a casting call looking for Caucasian extras. What we lack in talent we make up for in our overwhelming "exotic" whiteness. The casting director must be a foreigner like us because even though he told me to come on Friday the building is locked up. I can't even reduce myself to stage mom on Eid. But at least it got us out of the house!

*We pass a McDonald's and it's open. Oh my god....something is open! And since we have no food in our house, we are the hostages of American Capitalist fast food at it's worst. McDonald's in Morocco sucks as bad as it does everywhere else in the world. But I'm sure you already knew that even if you haven't been here. Now we're bored, bloated and lethargic. Unfortunately kids are resilient and regain their energy quickly....

*Whining, bickering, fighting, teasing, wrestling, biting.... (ok....this isn't the Eid special, it's actually everyday in our house with 4 kids). It's only 1 in the afternoon on Friday and they are on the verge of killing each other. I'm on the verge of setting up a ring and charging admission for locals to view the festivities of the exotic Caucasian kids duking it out when I realize no one would even come because...oh's Eid and no one is around!

*Then there is the revelation that changed the course of the weekend. When the kids are tired of fighting among themselves, give them someone new to fight with. So, we outsourced 3 kids to sleepovers and had a sleepover at our house too. Not only that we went from 4 kids down to 2! When you have 2 kids there is only one other kid to fight with. Statistically this significantly reduces the amount of discord. Not only that...apparently when you aren't related to another kid you can actually play and get along together. Oh my god.....SWEEEEEEETTT!!!

*What are we going to feed the sleepover kids? Pizza. Is anywhere open? Pizza Hut is and will deliver if we can order in French which is a challenge. We should have put our bilingual 8 year old sleepover guest on to order for us. I, of course, think of this too late. Now I normally have ice cream for sleepovers, but we don't have any. But..... I do have frozen margaritas! Shhhhhhhh.....don't tell your mom ok? But if you must this is called a lime slushie ok? Is that bad? (They slept great by the way.) Note to self always keep frozen margarita mix in the freezer.

* When kids are having a great time at their sleepover do NOT rush coming home and allow them the longest sleepover in recorded history. Did I mention that we had reduced our kid inventory from 4 to 2? I think I might have. Plus we have the sweetest, most polite bilingual kid at our house. I wonder if he could call Maroc telecom for us and straighten out our internet phone problems a la Francais. Damn it, it's Eid...they're closed.

*Just when we're wondering how to fill Saturday night and what in the world we are going to eat (and I wonder if KFC is open and that makes me barf in my mouth a little) we get an invitation to an impromptu party at a friends house. THANK GOD!!! The kids play with their friends again and we get to talk with real live adults in English and discuss....well...some details should not be shared. And at this point does it even really matter?

*Impromptu trip to the beach with same party friends the following day at frou frou beach resort that we get into for free. The fast food extravaganza continues with an overpriced cheeseburger at the restaurant. I feel gross from fast food yet again. That is until I see a wrinkly thin tanorexic woman of about 70 doing yoga in the water while smoking a cigarette simultaneously. What a perplexing and awful contradiction and I wish I could get the visual out of my head. At least we weren't in Europe, so she wasn't topless. I've never been so happy NOT to be on a beach in Europe.

*Wait when did this weekend stop being about mere survival and become fun anyway? I don't know, but I like it!

*When we get home from the beach the kids shower and scrubthe sand off to a shiny polish. Then we have a home cooked meal (including vegetables) with stuff that we got at the grocery store that was finally open. So none of our plans worked out for the weekend. We didn't see Eid and we didn't go anywhere, but we totally had a blast.

* We finish off the meal with the best chocolate of all time that I have only recently discovered: Lindt's Chilli Dark paired perfectly with a glass of Montepulciano. Compared to everything else over the weekend this is health food. The sweetest ending to the weekend that almost wasn't.

*And four exhausted and exfoliated kids fall into bed Sunday night after a weekend of partying......PRICELESS!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cooking with Fatty

I love food. I love to cook. And I love to eat. So a day to go to Moroccan cooking school can not be passed up. I'm so excited. The man who runs the cooking school is American, moved to Morocco some years ago from Texas and still has the drawl to prove it. Although he runs it, the woman who teaches the class is Moroccan. Thank god. Don't get me wrong, he's very nice, but I would rather be taught Moroccan cooking by someone with a Moroccan accent. Hearing "y'all can add your eggplant now" might ruin the Moroccan ambiance. Plus I want to learn from someone who learned it from their mom, just the way Fatimazaara, our teacher for the day, did.

Fatimazaara. Fatimazaara. Fatimazaara. I repeat, but I'm not so good with remembering exotic names. After several attempts to remember it I finally had to write it down. So I ask her if she has a nickname. "Fatty", she says. I felt rude even repeating it back to her for clarification purposes. By all English speaking standards this is one of the worst things that you can say to a woman. I'm sure in Moroccan it's absolutely beautiful. So I googled and Fatima means daughter of the prophet and zaara, beautiful flower. I'm positive that google and I have translated her name to 100% accuracy. Even if I didn't, it's better than the English translation. She seems a bit nervous because this is only the 4th class that she's teaching at the school. Either that or she was feeling a bit faint and lethargic because she teaches a cooking class and it's Ramadan and she can't eat or drink anything, but is entranced with the smells all day long until 7pm leisurely rolls around. I've been wondering how Muslims who work with food all day do it. They must get a special "get the loved one of your choice into heaven" free card for the extra temptation that they endure during Ramadan.

The cooking begins with our Chicken with Apricot Stuffed Walnut Stuffed Tagine. The olive oil, garlic and onions are simmering in the pot with cumin, turmeric, saffron, and ginger. It smells good already and my mouth is watering. Poor Fatty. I'm sorry I'm enjoying the smells and get to eat this a mere 5 hours before a morsel of food or water touches your lips. I will dedicate the first bite to you. We brown the chicken and water and let them cook in the pressure cooker. The apricots come later. We start on Touktouka (a bell pepper salad) and Zaalouk (an eggplant salad) which are served hot with Morocan bread which is round and flat kind of like a small Frisbee. Hey, maybe that's a great use for old, stale Moroccan bread. While our peppers and eggplants are roasting and our apricots are simmering in anticipation of stuffing them, Fatty makes us some traditional Moroccan mint tea. Green tea, fresh mint leaves and lots of sugar. The thing about Moroccan tea is it's sweet. Real sweet. Like sweeter than "sweet tea" in the South super syrupy kinda sweet. She pours the tea in the ceremonial style pouring the hot tea high from the pot into the glass cups to welcome guests. You can tell Fatty has done this once or twice before. After the sugar jolt from our tea, our apricots are plump and the sugar and cinnamon added to them have made a thick and aromatic syrup. Our deft hands stuff the walnuts into the apricots just in time for our chicken which is now done to perfection. We arrange our chicken and apricots in a traditional tagine pot and make a tomato rose to adorn our salads. Voila! Lunch. It's all delicious, especially the salads that we dip our Frisbees, or Moroccan bread rather into and scoop like we're eating loaded nachos.

And while this has all been a very fun time and the food is delicious. This cooking class really is for those with an interest in your less adventurous types of Moroccan foods. Everything that they make has ingredients that you can get back home in the states which is great if that's what you're going to do. Me? What I really wanna know what to do with the exotic ingredients at the Moroccan grocery store. What about that huge squashlike thing in the produce section that is so enormous it's purchasers order chunks of it which produce boy obliges slicing, bagging, weighing and labeling it. What so you do with tiny quail eggs at the store? Am I supposed to make tiny omelets with them? Or one individual cupcake? Then there's the real big questions of....what in the world do you do with the lambs heads? And are goat balls a delicacy? Do you saute them with garlic and butter? Capers maybe? But what I really must know is what will Fatty eat tonight when she breaks fast? What do you crave beyond anything else when you haven't eaten all day? I'm betting she's not eating Chicken with Walnut stuffed Apricot Tagine.

This Friday (if the moon is right) it will be Eid al-Fitr. It's the Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. This is the big blowout 3 day party where they sacrifice a goat or a sheep. I've heard that the air is thick with the stench of blood and roasting gamey meat. I'm sure that just like at the beginning of Ramadan that there will be police officers on every street corner to ensure that things don't get out of hand. Or maybe they are the last line of defense to make sure that the goats and sheep don't escape their inevitable fate. This is the real nitty gritty down and dirty stuff I want to know. And this is the kind of Moroccan cooking that interests me. Are there instructions in a cookbook somewhere? Like Fatty Crocker's 3 Day or Less Succulent Goatball Recipes? Step one: Wrangle goat into submission (this may require you to enlist the help of a co-wrangler). Step two: Bless said goat with beautiful Muslim prayer Step 3: Slay goat with machete Step 4: Remove vital organs and balls (reserve for later use) Step 5: Rub rocks together to start a blazing inferno while simultaneous preparing spit for mounting and roasting (again, you may want enlist help for this step)...

What can I do to earn a window into this mysterious world? Then I think. WWFD? (What would Fatty do?) And while I have no idea. I can't call her to invite myself over to her house. It might have something to do with that restraining order she filed against me when I tried to follow her home. I think maybe I should hang out by the butcher at the Medina with a sign around my neck that I'm available Friday for free goat wrangling/spit preparation. Sure I've never wrestled a goat before, but I did jello wrestle The Panty Christ (I'm using her roller derby name to protect her privacy) once. I'm scrappy, plus I'm free labor. And maybe just maybe I can learn to cook like a local and get a free tasting of lambs head or goat balls after all. That is until Fatty writes that cook book. Need a ghost writer? I know a good one.

Overall, I'm giving cooking school a rating of 4 goat balls out of 6. Well I can't do it out of 5 stars like food critics do because goat balls come in pairs you know. I have reserved the other two goat balls, but only because I don't know how to cook them yet! A very Happy Ramadan to you and yours...or is it Merry Ramadan?

(***Disclaimer: While the restraining order is fictitious, Fatty and jello wrestling The Panty Christ are real, and I would honestly give cooking school a 6 out of 6 goat balls and I might consider wrestling a goat if you and I can be a tag team***)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Adnane Scissorhands

I am not a person who is picky about her hair. I've had it short, long, a mullet, straight, every shade of brown, curly, red, black, highlighted, 80's mall hair and I've completely shaved it off and had no hair. I only ask that it be healthy and not feel like straw. And right now it does after I colored it a light brown and then it got bleached out this summer from the sun, so that it's now a horrible brash blondish color. So the time has come for that bianual haircut, so that it can once again feel healthy and so I can completely neglect it and put it up in a wet flipped through pony tail for the next 6 months until it's time to do it again. And why don't I just shave my head again?

I'm not great at making appointments ahead of time because I just need my hair cut the instant I get fed up with it. So although I got a great recommendation for a guy that almost everyone at the Embassy uses I lost his phone number and since I don't know where his place is I can't just show up and chance that he'll have an opening. Anyway, it's never been a big deal for me to go to someone new anyway. I've gone to barbershops, in my younger years I would go to someone and just say do whatever you want with it, I've gone to places where we don't speak the same language before and of course I've cut my own hair too. You get the drift. I don't know if it's just because I don't have great hair to begin with or the fact that I'm really apathetic and untalented at the whole hair thing. I'm sure it's both.
So I find a salon and Adnane is available to cut my hair. Great. Quickly I notice he is one of two stylists working at the salon and they are both male. Ok. Cool. He unclips my hair to let it down and inspect it. "You want it short?" he says. "No, just the ends" and I show him about an inch using my fingers as the scissor demonstration of how much I would like off. He calls shampo girl and she girl whisks me away to the sinks. I know I'm in more of a salon than I'm comfortable with when they have a shampoo girl. In fact all the shampoo girls are girls. The stylists are guys. Interesting. Is that modern and progressive or is it archaic and oppressive? I haven't decided yet. Shampoo girl shampoos my hair twice and doesn't condition. Weird, especially since my hair is fine, dry and tangle prone but ok. She must know what she's doing.
She walks me to the chair, combs out my tangly squeaky clean hair and preps me. She does so much that I'm sure I've misunderstood and she's the one who's going to cut my hair not Adnane. Shampoo girl exits and Adnane returns. He has scissors and starts cutting. "You like this color?" he asks looking at it sneering. He wants to color it. "Not today" I say. This wasn't the answer he wanted. He asks me if I like Barrack Obama. And although my degree is in Political Science, I have made it a policy of not discussing politics with foreign men who have sharp scissors. So I give a vague answer. He equates Obama to JFK. I'm so not biting. Then he switches topics and proceeds to tell me how his friend works in Manhattan and charges $300 for a mens haircut. Is he telling me this so he comes off as the most pretentious jerk or is this just a mere coincidence? He has been cutting my hair for less than 5 minutes and he's done. I only know he's done because he yells abruptly for shampoo girl and walks away. Really? Did that just happen? Shampoo girl then dries and styles my hair like this is normal.

So what is this strange and unusual feeling that comes over me? In less than 5 minutes I have determined I don't like Adnane. And I like everybody. My vote has now been cast on archaic and oppressive at this point too. While my hair is fine. Not the best cut, not the worst. I just don't like to get my haircut from someone who is just plain mean and arrogant. I think about not tipping him at all. But, I just can't do it. So I handle it in the most passive-aggressive way possible. I tip ridiculously low, although when you calculate his minute to dirham ratio for the short duration he worked...he probably didn't do too bad. Damn it! Then I vow never to return. And then I bought a box of hair color that I hope he absolutely hates (as if he will ever see it, know or care). That was right after I took angry looking pictures of my new hair for the blog. See, I told you it was passive aggressive. In fact if you look passive aggressive in the DSM you will see these 3 very same pictures of me scowling staring back at you. Watch out...I've got a box of haircolor and I'm gonna use it. Tomorrow....or the next day....but I will. So there Adnane Scissorhands!

Recommended reading: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) by the American Psychiatric Association


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