Monday Meal Review: Morocco

As I set our Moroccan Global Table I know something is wrong.  I know because I’m doing it on purpose.

The table sits outside, under a tree, covered by dappled shade and a soft cotton cloth. I tuck the benches right up to the table, so Ava can eat without a giant void between her and the table.

I look at the clock; Ava’s friend Isabel, her sister Emma, and her parents will be here any minute.

After a moment of hesitation, I make my decision and quickly place seven dinner plates on the tablecloth. This is where I go wrong. This is what I should not be doing. To make matters worse, I continue by placing seven sets of silverware on the table and seven cups. The table is loaded to the brim.

If I were living the traditional Moroccan way I would not be using all these dishes. We would tear off pieces of bread and use it to scoop up the lamb from the communal tagine, straight into our mouths. In fact, Moroccan water vendors carry a strand of shiny metal cups around their neck, sell a cup of water and then take back the cup for the next customer. There’s all kinds of sharing going on in Morocco.

The timer goes off. Beep. Beep. Beeeeeeep. As I lift up the conical lid, the scent of saffron and cinnamon fills my home and drifts out the window, over the table. Perfect.

Once dinner begins we all eat with our own silverware, on our own plates, and our own glasses. We still laugh, we still feel community – but the real experience of “digging in” is missing.

Our hands are tools. Give humans a pile of food and we can pick it apart – no silverware required. Even soup is no obstacle, with the right determination. I’ve seen it all over the world. When we don’t use our hands enough (whether for eating, building, sewing, gardening, or painting), we lose that connection to what we can do on our own.

This week I desperately wanted to eat the tagine with our hands. We’ve eaten like this for other Global Tables, but things are changing around here.

When it comes to toddlers, consistency is key. Ava now knows that every Thursday she’ll be trying new food from around the world. She knows it’ll be fun, a bit unusual, and there’ll be a video camera. But what she can’t yet figure out is why sometimes she’s allowed to eat with her hands and sometimes she’s not.

This can create quite a bit of confusion at dinnertime. When she was a baby, occasionally eating with her hands worked because… well, .. she occasionally ate with her hands. And when she’s a little older, no doubt, eating with her hands once in a while will work again. But at two years old, it’s hard to enforce eating with a fork 6 days a week, only to undermine myself on the remaining day.

It confuses her and it confuses me. And it would have confused our friends and their kids. Oh the chaos. I can picture it now (which is why I put out those plates and silverware).

I’m curious and looking for advice. How does your family handle eating with your hands? What about family style, from one shared plate (think pizza, ice cream, popcorn)? Do you do it at all? Why or why not?

Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Sweet Honey Figs [Recipe]

What I love most about this dish:

Oh sweet goodness – this is cinnamon and spice and everything nice. The meat on this tagine is so tender, we literally didn’t need our knives – we simply just pulled a little on the meat and it fell apart. I adore how the honey figs and chestnuts complemented the meat. But the best complement of all? Everyone had thirds. Even Ava, despite the fact that all she wanted to do was play, play, play.

What I love least about this dish:

There’s nothing difficult about it, except the desire to keep peeking under the tagine lid. Try not to do this much, or you lose all the heat. One other note – chestnuts can get expensive and are by no means required for this dish to be amazing.

Moroccan Carrot & Orange Salad [Recipe]

What I love most about this dish:

There is something so incredible about adding sugar, orange juice and cinnamon to carrots. It’s like having carrot cake, but for a salad (and not as sweet). I could not believe how much of this Ava’s little friend ate – two entire glasses. In fact, everyone seemed to like it, even the girl’s mom who has a slight allergy to carrots (I found this out after dinner).  And even Mr Picky (see the collage of his tasting experience). I like that the flavors can easily sit overnight, making this salad an obvious option for a travel-themed potluck or party.

What I love least about this dish:

Not much. Next time I make it, I want to grate the carrots even finer, to make the salad more traditional. While you can easily eat this a couple of days after you make it, the color dulls somewhat the longer it sits.

Moroccan Semolina “Crater” Pancakes [Recipe]

What I love most about this dish:

Every. single. thing. Seriously. This tastes like fresh baked bread, but with the buttery honey spiked with orange blossom water? Forget it. This is how I plan to spend the next several Saturday mornings. I served these after dinner, way after the kids were long since full, yet they all wen to town on these as if they didn’t have dinner thirty minutes earlier. I also made these for breakfast on a weeknight (by mixing the batter up the night before and refrigerating it). Easy peasy!

What I love least about this dish:

Like any pancake, there is always a bit of time spent fiddling with the temperature gauge. I lucked out and had no trouble figuring out how hot to set the stove – it’ll be a lot like your pancake setting. Don’t worry though – if you mess up the first 1 or 2 figuring out the right temperature. You’ll eventually get the hang of it. The key is to raise the temperature if holes don’t form and lower it if the bottom burns before the top dries out.

Ava’s Corner:


  1. Pingback: Digging In {Eating with Your Hands} |

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