Morocco is located in the north western corner of Africa. The capital city is Rabat, but the largest and most famous city in Morocco is Casablanca. Morocco borders the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Sahara and Algeria. Geographically, it’s about the same size as the state of California and has a population of more than 32 million.
The official language of Morocco is Arabic and Berber ; other major languages include French.
How Moroccans Eat
Moroccans typically eat three meals a day with lunch as the biggest meal. Since the midday meal is so large, its preparation often begins right after breakfast. Family and food are very much intertwined in Morocco and most businesses close for lunch so that families can eat together. Cooking in Morocco is still very much done only by women. Most men never learn to cook, unless they choose it as part of a profession. Unlike many western cultures, snacks are not typically a part of traditional Moroccan cuisine.
Food in Morocco is mostly eaten without utensils. Moroccans use their right hand and only their thumb and first two fingers because using more fingers is a sign of gluttony . Eating Moroccan dishes, such as couscous, without a utensil requires some creativity Moroccans have mastered the technique of rolling it into a ball to eat it. Since Moroccans use their hands to eat,! hand washing is! a part of dining etiquette. During certain ceremonial meals, hand washing occurs at the table where perfumed water is poured over the three fingers of their right hand .
Staples of Moroccan Cuisine
The dish that is most widely associated with Moroccan culture is couscous. Couscous is processed from semolina and is actually a pasta, but is often regarded as a grain. The word “couscous” also means “food” in Moroccan Arabic and! is a regular staple in daily meals . In Morocco, it is served with stew containing different meats and vegetables. Couscous cooked the traditional way requires much patience and time, but “instant” couscous can be easily prepared by adding it to boiling water, covering and allowing it to simmer over low heat.
Tajine (or tagine) is a traditional stew that comes from the indigenous! Berber culture. The word “tajine” is not only the name of the stew but also the name of the pot it is cooked in. Essentially, tajine is a slow-cooked stew made with meat and vegetables. There are many different ways of preparing tajine, but is traditionally made with chicken and lamb. The recipe for tajine begins with heating oil and spices in a cold, clay pot. Meat is added next, cooked on low heat while the vegetables are added last.
Bread is sacred in Morocco. During meals, bread is traditionally only served by the host and pieces of bread are placed all along the table so it is easily reachable by guests . Since Moroccans traditionally eat with their hands, bread is often used to soak up sauces and to help pick up food. Different varieties of breads are baked using barley, wheat, sorghum and millet. Moroccan bread is often thin, flat and circular in shape.
Mint tea is a one of the most popular beverages in Morocco. Moroccan tea is very sweet and is prepared with generous amounts of sugar and fresh mint. Almond milk is another beverage that is strongly associated with Moroccan cuisine. It is traditionally served at festivals and celebrations, such as weddings .
Water in Morocco often flavored with rose or orange flower. Some Moroccans drink “perfumed water” which is water treated with gum arabic , giving it a sweet scent and unique taste.
Spices are what give Moroccan food its distinctive flavour. Popular spices in Moroccan cuisine include : cinnamon, cumin, coriander, saffron, turmeric, ginger, paprika and black pepper. In Morocco, each spice shop has a “ras el hanout”, which translates to “shopkeeper’s choice”. An experienced shopkeeper can create a mix of spices that includes up to 32 different spices.
Food & Celebration
Food is an important part of many celebrations and ceremonies in Moroccan culture. Births, baptisms, weddings and funerals are all marked with food traditions. Ceremonial meals are usually more elaborate than family meals and are often prepared by profession chefs. The host may not help with the cooking and women must not be involved in the food preparation of these celebrations . Other celebrations, such as : weddings and rites of passages, are prepared by the women of the house. Some ceremonial meals can take! days to prepare, especially when the meals can involve 20-30 courses. Moroccans observe many religious festivals throughout the year. Symbolic foods accompany each occasion and are important to the celebration. Ramadan is a month that consists of praying, fasting and eating, where three meals are served each evening. The meals prepared for Ramadan are all rich in sugar, grains and milk which are foods that stem from Morocco s!history. Aid el Kebhir is one of the oldest religious festivals in Moroccan culture and is celebrated by the sacrifice of sheep.