I've always been a picky eater ... there are so many foods I don't like ... and that has kept me from being adventurous in my exploration of new foods. I just can't help it that my taste buds are so finicky and I marvel at those who try anything and like almost everything. My self-imposed dietary limitations sometimes caused me to go hungry in Morocco which is practically a crime in a culture that prides itself on having great food and puts such a hearty emphasis on eating. But little by little I ventured into previously unknown food territories and am proud to say my food experiences have expanded ... somewhat.
In Morocco, food is plentiful, fresh and joyfully prepared and consumed. Every edible bit of an animal is diced, sliced, and pounded into submission before being boiled, barbecued or roasted. While I don't look at fruits and vegetables with the wary resistance I hold for meats (especially organ meats) I have tried some foods I never saw before or ventured to eat while living in the states. I count those occurrences as small personal victories.
Moroccans love to eat, often eating 4 meals a day, and sometimes partaking in a full meal before going to bed. And Moroccans are such generous hosts and hostesses, imploring you to eat, eat, that not to do so seems rude. With so much emphasis on eating I tried many foods I would not even consider putting into my mouth under other circumstances. As a result I feel unreasonably proud of myself for discovering and heartily enjoying camel burgers (from Cafe Clock, of course), for taking a tentative bite of the eye of a sheep (only because I didn't know what it was), for sipping a broth made from the knee joints of a cow (I didn't like it) and for learning to accept avocados perched in my fruit salad as opposed to a leafy green salad. To most people this must seem unimpressive but to me trying these previously untouched foods was anything but.
One summer I practically lived on sardines as I camped throughout the north of Morocco and I now have a new-found respect for the satisfaction they yield because it's so disproportionate to their size. I still won't eat sardines from a tin but put a pile of fresh sardines in front of me with a side of fries and I will dig in with relish. I also grew to love the juice made from carrots and oranges that refreshes like nothing else and I always enjoyed a side dish of Zalouk, made from roasted eggplant and unfailingly delicious.
I realize most people have a much more expanded and enjoyable food experience in Morocco and I understand my food preferences are limiting. But I take pleasure in knowing that my mother, rest her soul, who struggled to get me to eat something new throughout my childhood, would be so proud had she lived to see me venture outside my culinary comfort zone.
Eat, everyone, eat. Morocco's food table is laden with freshly prepared offerings you won't find anywhere else.