This weekend I went to Morocco. In less than a few hours, after I had seen Gibraltar and left Spain on a ferry, I was bouncing up and down on a camel in Africa along the shore line. It was surreal, at best.
With all that is happening so quickly and often here in Spain, I didn’t have time to meditate or anticipate anything about Morocco or Africa. And contrary to my typical ways, I think that was the best way to go. I took every city, bus ride, and Moroccan as they were without too many preconceived notions. Of course I had thought about what places like Ghana and Kenya must be like and how it would be if I were to go there, but never Morocco.
However, on one of the many long bus rides from city to city, I did get to sit back and listen to our Moroccan tour guide Mohammed explain Moroccan food and culture in an almost comedic sketch.
He said many funny things but my favorite went like this: “In Morocco, we don’t use silverware. It makes no sense. As Moroccans, we share one large plate of food. If we tried using forks and knives or talking while we ate, we would go to bed hungry. I don’t know why, but this is how it is.” For a second I was puzzled at this relatively modern man using his hands to eat every food – even couscous. As I pictured him shoveling semolina into his mouth, he refuted the spoon as a way to eat soup: “Why use a spoon? I can not think of a slower way to eat anything. Grab the cup in your hands and slurp it down to show your wife it is good.”
As I laughed and slightly winced at his very gendered remarks, I remembered once again that food is intrinsically linked to all cultures and all people and reflects every aspect of their world view. And as he explained that a fat wife meant a happy life, I sat back and took him and the landscape all in again.
And that night, when I downed mouthfuls of couscous from a shared plate, I thought of Mohammed and began to understand.