The joy of extremes

I’ve told you about the overwhelming hustle and bustle of Marrakech, an urban destination full of exotic history.

This week, we stepped away from the city and saw first a bit of the Atlantic coast, with its laid back atmosphere and seafood specialties.

Essaouira (pronounced “es-o-wear’-a”) is a charming seaside town with stone ramparts dating back to the 18th century and a lovely boardwalk that stretches along the seemingly endless beach.

The Atlantic coast is a tad windier than the Pacific (this place is nicknamed “the Windy City of Africa”), but on a sunny day like we had, sitting on a patio sipping an aperitif makes you feel like you could be in Biarritz, France.

The local souk has a more casual atmosphere than Marrakech, and the quality of the goods seemed consistently very good. The highlight for us was the food section of course.

There were fruits I’d never seen before, a sort or orange-red globe the size of a large grape, with a nubbed skin. We saw people eating them fresh, so we decided to try them.

We washed them off and discovered they tasted like a cross between a peach and a raspberry. It wasn’t a punch of flavour but the texture made them fun to eat.

Later, I found out that despite the seller’s spiel of them being unique to Morocco, they are common throughout the Mediterranean and even symbolic in Spain and Italy.

They are strawberry tree fruit. A good taste, and another lesson learned in market shopping.

We saw a range of seafood here we’d only ever seen while scuba diving. We ducked into a side alley after someone said in a half-whisper, “fish market,“ like they were selling watches from inside their raincoat. It was, in a word, authentic.

Not only did the vendors have an enormous variety of species, they were obviously very fresh. And they sold not just to people taking groceries home but also to those wanting a meal right there.

You could pick what you wanted and they would whisk it to the back of the market where charcoal grills were set up and women were stationed, making Moroccan tomato salad and “frite, » and dishing out bowls of olives and harissa.

We chose a few sardines (one of the specialties of the area, and a good snack size fish) and a few shrimp, just because. They were grilled to perfection and served within minutes. They cost us a whopping 70 dirhams ($10 CDN).

We took our cue from the locals and ate them without utensils, slurping the meat after dipping the odd bite in the harissa. The sardines tasted like they might have swum to the table, they were that good, and I’ve never had shrimp so sweet.

We finished the day with a bag of delectable pastries from a French style pastry shop buzzing not only with customers but also bees. (The local pastries full of honey are irresistible to the little fellows, and without such secure displays as we have at home, they move right in. )

We munched satisfactorily on the drive back - chocolate covered biscuits, flaky pastry filled with a mocha cream, and “cornettes de gazelle,“ crescent-shaped pastries filled with almond paste.

I had good dreams that night. I was happy we had made a detour to see more of the country.

Our next stop would be the other extreme — the desert. Tune in next week to hear about that.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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