Marrakesh, a city that is exotic and filled with spice and I was lucky enough to eat my way through this city. Moroccan cuisine has a fabulous way to wet my appetite; the spices, the strong smells and flavors were all soaked up with the fresh made bread. Morocco excited me to no end. I was finally going to North Africa and Marrakesh was my introduction. I had finally made it right before my 19th birthday. I was ecstatic as I settled into my Riad. I did not want to stay inside long; I wanted to be out and exploring the markets. I wanted to dig into a bowl of spiced snails or take a big chunk out of some sheep brain and intestines with a little camel lung on the side. I then wanted to wash it all down with a local apple soda and man what a meal.
I entered the Jemaa el-Fnaa Square and was overwhelmed with the beautiful colors that jumped out at you. The square was busy and noisy and tourist and locals alike skirted from point A to point B. Local vendors screamed out deals as they watched people pass their shops, giving smiles to vendors as they tried to convince me to go into their shops. I was in no mood for shopping. My stomach was growling and I was looking for good ol’ street food.
Now I love food and I love all kinds of food; I can dine with the finest and I can slum it with the best. I love and crave new and exotic flavors bouncing around my palate. Street food is my favorite because I can always find the bizarre food that needs an acquired taste to enjoy. This kind of food is intimidating but the excitement of conquering the bizarre is what draws me in. I want to understand all the flavors that food can offer.
The food stands were in the middle of the square all tightly packed together. I could smell the baking of fresh round bread and hear the clanking of saucepans and pots as cooks screamed out for my attention. I walked through them with my eyes wide open just absorbing everything I was looking at. I ignored the calls from the food vendors and patiently waded through until I got a whiff of something interesting and I saw a place serving bowls of snails. They call this Ghoulal and it is a staple in Moroccan street food.
I walked up to the stand and pulled up a seat. I pointed to the snails and the man gave me a big scoop of them in a bowl. He poured the spice broth on and handed me the bowl. The steam of the broth hit my face and a bouquet of cumin, tarragon, thyme, peppermint, mint and ginger filled my senses. I took a little wooden pick and plucked the succulent little buggers out of their shells and plopped them into my mouth. The tender pieces of meat seemed to melt and filled my mouth with a savory spice. I was lost in bliss and could not wait for my next bite. I finished up and slurped down the broth and moved on to the next stand.
I saw a stand grilling some mystery meat that smelled decent. I asked the man what he was cooking up and he smiled at me and in broken English told me sheep’s brain, camel lung, and intestines. I was not sure at first if he was telling the truth or just messing with a tourist but he was actually cooking that. He seemed friendly and sincere so I sat down and asked for a little bit of everything.
I told him to keep giving me stuff until I said stop. He gave me a big grin and started to fill up a plate. He gave me bread to accompany the food and told me what was there. He again said sheep’s brain, camel lung, and intestines. Now I can’t really say that I fell in love with any of it, but my chewy meaty snacks were fascinating. I forced myself to enjoy new textures, and flavors. I love forcing myself to deal with it. The brain was very much like liver just without the flavor. The camel lung was chewy and the intestines were spongy. It was strange and I really have no idea if that was what I was eating but hey I felt the man to be honest and I thought it was worth a risk.
I had unbelievable food in the markets and at a few restaurants. I had lamb, all sort of tajines and they were all wonderful but the street food and the exotic is what intrigues me. I will always remember the voices of the vendors competing for customers and the fast movement of the crowds as you get bumped along. The noise was on high and it was exciting. Street food can be a gamble at times but we all need a little bit of risk in our life. I love food and will always love food.
The ability to take ingredients and pair them with each other to create such a wonderful and delicious dish is a true art. I am no cook and probably will never be one. I have few things I can put together but for the most part the preparation is not what draws my attention but the finished piece and to celebrate the work of art by ingesting it. Morocco was an experience and we are already planning a trip back to the North African Country of Morocco for Christmas 2015. I cant wait to go back and explore more.