Friday, January 14, 2011

One Grain of Rice

One day at pilates we start talking about food. Ok that's actually everyday, everywhere in Morocco. When you don't live on your home turf you quite often lament those comfort foods you grew up with, but can't get in here in Morocco. We also toss around new food discoveries too, but somehow the lamenting always comes out the winner. So Sara, fitness guru extraordinaire and always one to look at things in a positive light, starts talking about the grain market here in town. If you live in the developed world and can go get any grain you want at any store you want practically 24 hours a day, this may not sound particularly exciting to you. But if you live in Rabat and are down to that one grain of brown rice because it's so expensive to buy at the supermarket, the possibility of multiplying your supply inexpensively is exhilarating. So grain market? Did someone say field trip?

Now I like healthy food. I really do. But Sara takes it to a whole other level. Like Sara's face lights up when she talks about making her own ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise from scratch and home brewing this mystery potion called kombucha. Drinking something that's fermented from whey that has sat in a warm room for days with a mysterious name just sounds scary like a chemistry experiment gone awry. Ok, so not only is Sara bubbly, fit, smart, beautiful, with all her do it yourself nutrition power she's probably got the most pristinely scrubbed sparkly insides known to man. If I didn't love her I would probably have to hate her. But, I think that's chemically if not karmacally impossible.

So we arrive at the grain market where there is more rice, couscous, millet, oats, corn, rye, bulgar (and other grains I wasn't savvy enough to know what the hell they were) than I have ever seen in one place. Yes, even bigger than the Marjane couscous aisle. Vendors have their own stalls to display their grains in what is the most overwhelming grain experience, as if I've had so many grain experiences in my life. The question is how do I get in touch with what my grain needs really are? The women working in the grain market are acutely in touch with their grain needs. They are sitting on the ground criss-cross applesauce sorting the grains by hand. I never thought about how my grains were sorted or by whom before or that they even needed sorting. Sara did astutely notice that the grain women had the most immaculate posture. And they do. Why do I see a "grain-sorting" exercise in my near future?

I must buy something, anything from the GWIPs (Grain Women with Immaculate Posture), especially brown rice. However to get to the GWIPs one must bargain with the MWIGS (Males With Impressive Grain Supplies). There are so many vendors to choose from and so many grains to choose. And Sara is in a moral dilemma because she's bought from two different vendors before and they both remember her and welcome her like she's their long lost cousin from the states that they haven't seen in 20 years. They are suave and know exactly what they are doing.

Me however, I'm a free agent with no loyalties to any one grain guy. So I choose the guy with the biggest supply. I'm ordering up some chick pea flour, hand rolled whole wheat couscous, dates, dried pineapple and brown rice (which is at least 40d cheaper than buying it at Marjane). Now why would brown rice be more expensive than white rice anyway because it's actually more work to make brown rice white? Once I'm done pondering the riceness of it all, I whip out my hygienic glass bottles for him to fill with olive oil. He takes out what looks like the dustiest dirtiest looking plastic water bottle that has the fresh pressed oil in it. I don't know why shopping in supermarkets strips our consciousness of the fact that our food actually comes from somewhere, other people touch it, and that even in the states the FDA has an acceptable number of bug parts and rat droppings that your ketchup (and every other food item) can have. Life is filled with dirt, gangly fly legs and rat poo. And with that said, I may start making my own ketchup too. I'm sure Sara will give me a tutorial with perfect posture even.

After I made my purchase (and ketchup epiphany) Sara heads back to her #1 grain guy to give him a little action. And he knows how to treat a woman. He's got the olive oil out with a fresh frisbee of Moroccan bread and he insists we indulge. He's got us post kick-ass workout and it's lunch time so we're totally gorging ourselves until we're drunk on carbs. Then we notice the pot simmering at our feet. Grain guy helps another customer and we lift the lid and peek inside. It's the men's lunch. I wonder who made the lunch. But then I do know that they know how to treat a woman, so I already know the answer. The real question is how many bug parts are in it and which ones? Sara settles up her bill for her grains and we bid the market adeiu.

So I've got all this chickpea flour. Now what the hell am I going to do with it? Zucchini chickpea pancakes anyone? Yeah, my kids thought the same thing. They would have rather calculated the rat poo/chickpea flour ratio than eat it. Hey, at least we have next years science fair project figured out. Either that or the kids could calculate how many grains of rice you would have if you started with one grain and doubled it everyday for 30 days. I think that might be plagarism though.

Recommended reading: One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale by Demi (My kids favorite book when they were small and even now that they're not so small.)

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