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Happy-Gourmand

The taste of desert food

We are now finished our visit to Morocco and I already know I’d like to come back and see more.

This country is like Canada in that there are many climates and landscapes to experience, each with their own charm and appeal. Similar to us as well are the extremes that Morocco presents.

Although I enjoyed the exotic city of Marrakech and the seaside charm of Essaouira, by far my favourite time in Morocco was on our desert tour. 

Our voyage took us over the Atlas Mountains and then along river beds lush with palm trees, the hills above with only red rock and rugged bushes.

Berber villages have existed here for centuries, since the days of the salt caravans that travelled 52 days from Mali to trade in gold, ivory and sugar.

We spent one night en route in an oasis called Skoura. That was an utterly amazing stop — you’ll have to watch my blog posts to hear that story and others from our travels. 

Our second day across the country was desolate, but even the bare plains disappeared in a sandstorm that afternoon. When it was over, we discovered we had reached the town of Merzouga, also known as Erg Chebbi. Here we turned into the rose-gold dunes as the sun crept to the horizon. 

After a roller coaster ride through the sand and rock at the edge of the desert (with Saharan music playing in the car to really set the scene) we reached a circle of tents. 

The wind was blowing; as soon as we exited the car, I could feel the crunch of sand between my teeth and smell it in my nose.

But I was distracted by the sumptuous lounge that revealed itself in the centre of the tent village. 

Thick Berber rugs with their mosaic patterns and plush cushions were laid out around a massive fire pit, with lanterns stationed outside the circle. Larger lanterns stood outside a main tent, where we were led for a glass of — you guessed it — mint tea. 

We were greeted by the staff, who looked like they worked with Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia. There were nuts and dried fruit to nibble on, too, since we must be hungry from the journey, they said. (the Berbers are famous for their hospitality, and it’s easy to see why.) 

They showed us to our tent, a decadent affair complete with king size bed, full bathroom and seating area. They confirmed the time for dinner and that tomorrow after breakfast, we would go camel riding. I couldn’t wait. 

Despite the fact that everything we ate for two days had sand in it, every dish tasted magical. Tajine cooking is the theme — everything is served in these clay pots. They keep out the sand, and keep the meal hot. 

We had tajine made with beef, squash and dried apricots; the next day with turkey and tomatoes with saffron broth. Also cooked in the same handy vessel were eggplants and tomatoes with cumin and melted cheese, and the wonderful Berber omelette that has an harissa-flavoured sauce hiding underneath. 

Everything is served with their fresh koopfz bread, like a cross between pita bread and foccacia. Some of this is practical, as the tradition is to eat with one’s hands and the bread sops up sauce and small bits nicely.

But we learned one has to pace oneself, as there is almost always something else coming to the table. 

Fresh fruit ended the meal in the desert. (I think the honeyed pastries provide just too much of an opportunity for sand to cling to them.)

Sipping mint tea around the fire as the staff played drums, and watching the stars come out in numbers I’ve never seen before, I was utterly content. 



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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

 



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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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