A Cooking Class in Morocco
by Heather Sinclair
(Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)
The first Moroccan meal ever made by me.
I was in Marrakech when I signed up for a cooking class. One week into my Moroccan vacation I was in love with the food: Moroccan food was tasty, and so different from what I cooked at home. As I ate my lunch at the Earth Café in Marrakech, I noticed the signs for cooking classes and I couldn't resist signing up.
The next day I returned to the Earth Cafe. Right at 9am I knocked on the big wooden door. It opened and a slender girl with big smile greeted me. I grinned back, a bit nervous. “Entrez!” she said, and motioned for me to enter.
The girl introduced herself as ‘Latifa’. She spoke only a few words of English and I took from her earlier ‘entrez’ that she spoke French. I introduced myself in English, and asked “English? Ou Français?” She smiled a big smile again and said “Français, et un peu d’Anglais.” I felt relieved: Arabic would have been a stretch but I could manage French.
Latifa was my teacher for the class, and I followed her past the kitchen and into the empty restaurant. She pointed to the menu, written in English on a six foot-tall mirror on the wall. I pointed to the dish I wanted to make.
Next, Latifa handed me a black apron and lead me back to the kitchen, which was just big enough for a sink and a gas stove with counter-tops on either side. Bottle-lined shelves filled all three walls of the room.
She lit the gas stove and put a pan on the flame. Then she took one of the Coke bottles off the shelf, and squirted the yellow contents through a hole in the cap into the pan. “Olive oil,” she told me.
Next, she placed a cutting board on the counter and took out a vegetable peeler, chopping knife, squash, and zucchini. She peeled two strips off the squash, and then handed the peeler to me, smiling as she stepped back. I rolled up my sleeves and stepped up to the cutting board to finish peeling and dicing the vegetables. When I finished, everything went into the (now) hot pan on the stove.
While I was busy stir flying the vegetables with a wooden spoon, Latifa took out a sheet of thin pastry and unfolded it onto the counter. She took the pan off the stove and poured some vegetables onto the pastry. Then she rolled the vegetables up and folded the ends so it looked like a big vegetable cigar. She stepped aside and I knew it was my turn. I tried to imitate exactly what she had done, but somehow mine didn’t turn out as nice-looking. I consoled myself, thinking it would all look the same in my stomach. We tossed the two rolls into the pan to fry.
While the rolls fried, Latifa's had me prepare a bed of salad and a sauce for my meal. Then it was back to the rolls. Latifa reached into the pan and flipped one with her fingers. I flipped the second roll: it was golden on one side and looked (and smelled) delicious.
Latifa handed me a plate and pointed to the salad, which I spooned onto the plate. Next she pointed to the rolls, and I tipped them out of the pan onto the salad. She handed me the sauce we had just made and I drizzled it over the meal. The finishing touch was sprinkling on raisins, almonds, and cinnamon.
I took off my apron and sat down in the café to enjoy the fruits (and pastry rolls) of my labour. I could feel cool air from outside coming down the stairway and breathed in the smell of cinnamon and garlic. My mouth started to water.
I sat down in front of my plate, silently declaring the cooking class to be a success: I hadn't set the kitchen on fire or sustained any injuries whatsoever. My first ever made-by-me Moroccan dish was ready to eat. I took my first bite and decided that cooking classes were now part of my travel, wherever it may be.
Heather Sinclair can be found at The Travel Type.