Differences in Moroccan dining
11.06.2007 27 °C
Unfortunately the internet at the institute has been rather spotty in the past week; additionally, what free time I previously had has now been consumed with large amounts of classwork. That being said, I will probably try to make my updates on a weekly basis, although I might try to have them more frequently.
Now that the administrative things have been taken care of, I’ll now move on to the meat and potatoes (pun partially intended) of this entry: food. As you may have noticed from my first entries, my life in Morocco is constantly revolving around food. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not a matter of the food being bad. There are some crucial differences regarding Moroccan dining versus American:
• The most notable difference (in our family, at least) is the total of meals. While almost everyone in the States have three meals a day, a common day in Morocco seems to have up to four meals: breakfast, lunch, a small meal around 6-8 PM, and a larger “dinner” served after 10 PM, usually between 11 PM and midnight.
• Additionally, the lunch and late dinner meals tend to be a lot larger than their American counterparts. A fast or light lunch is extremely unusual here; the Moroccan “lunch hour” is from noon until 3 PM. Following in the footsteps of the French and other southern Europeans, everything except for restaurants and café’s close during these hours.
• The serving of a meal is a little different from the States in that the main dish is typically served from a central dish from which you pick out your portions. This is also crucial when considering the use of hands: while it is completely normal (in some cases obligatory) to use hands in the common dish, it is taboo to use the left hand for religious (left hand is the devil’s hand) and sanitary (try living in areas where toilet paper is a rarity) reasons. However, it ultimately depends on the family. While my family does not really care about my choice of hands, I still use my right hand for common dishes.
• On the note of service and common dishes, another massive difference is with the base of the meal: bread. While American meals may have rolls or biscuits as a side item, bread in Morocco serves not only as the ubiquitous item during any meal but also as a utensil for the main dish. In order to do this, you tear the piece of bread in half and use the non-crust portion (with the right hand, of course!) as a sponge for the food.
• In all likelihood the most apparent difference once the meal begins is the prodding. You see, the cultural importance of sharing a meal with someone is massive in Islam in general and particularly so in Morocco. The idea is that sharing a meal is the ultimate show of peace towards someone; therefore, any refusal by the guest is considered to be extremely offensive. As a result, it is quite common for guests to be told to “Eat! Eat!” during the course of a meal. My roommate Zach has a theory on this: the two most important aspects of Moroccan society seem to be eating and talking. If a guest is not talking, he or she should be eating. As a result, the prodding tends to happen during lulls in conversation.
In short, I suppose that should explain what has been happening over the past (almost) two weeks with regards to food. If anybody has any specific questions about food or any other topics, feel free to send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will try to answer them in future updates.
Inshallah (God willing; I’ll explain fatalism and other topics next time) I’ll get another one of these up soon.