Travel by Food
Thinking of the perfect mementos from your travels can be tough…you get lured in by the idea of something in the “moment.” (sombrero, no thank you) Thankfully I don’t have a home full of global chachkies, because I have a few special things I seek at each destination, that and I have a former marine as a husband (can you say OCD- shhhh.), postage stamps (they are ubiquitous, inexpensive, not breakable, usually tell a story about an aspect of your destination, and oh yeah, I am a dork…I collect them….more on this at another time), jewelry, artwork, and fun things to use in the kitchen! For example, I love to cook, so when I was in Turkey I got Turkish tea glasses and spoons to linger over with a nice meal, things like these I really enjoy. As my love of international cuisine has grown and I have evolved my cooking skills, spices have been a fun must. I have a cupboard full of saffron, lemongrass etc. However, my long and away fave is ras el hanout, literally translated from Arabic meaning “top of the shop.” The last day of my hubby and my trip in which we eloped to Morocco (yep, eloped) we scurried around to find our last few jems to take home. We were there during Ramadan, and many stores were closed, and quite frankly, our lovey selves didn’t feel like shopping previously…I digress…we usually split up and shop on the last day. I brought in the big fish though, our divine ras el hanout. Though the literal meaning is quite spot on, it needs a little more explaining. Ras el hanout is a proprietary spice blend each corner market has for sale. It usually contains about 30 spices or so, including a base of cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, anise, mace, cinnamon, ginger, various peppers, turmeric etc. I’ll never forget buying it. The young man who sold it to me was a little flirty and clearly we had a language barrier from the get go. He spoke Arabic and pretty much only Arabic beyond si vous plait. Me, mediocre French and English (though my grammar cop mother would debate that statement). I was at the store to buy three things, mint tea, ras el hanout, and camel meat, yes camel meat. A treat for the dog at the resort/farm where we were staying-it’s a delicacy. I did ok getting the first two, and he even threw in a free tupperware container, I’d like to say it’s my charm : ) …more like I overpaid. Camel. hmm I don’t know about you, but in my high school French classes I very easily recall…répétez s’il vous plaît, chien, repeat after me, dog. Nowhere in my text was camel. It became a very hysterical game of charades and barnyard sounds at the market, best my hubby wasn’t with me anyway he’d’a ditched me in embarrassment, or told me we’d find it later. Do you know what sound a camel makes? I beg of you, if so, please travel with me to Morocco on my next trip. Process of elimination, mooing and pointing, and I accomplished my mission. I successfully had a tupperware container of …..mystery meat, either way, beef, lamb, camel, Miggy the dog wasn’t picky. I returned like a proud fisherman with my catch. We had no idea how amazing the tea and spices would be. One of my most favorite spices I reach for is now ras el hanout. I kind of smile inside and think a) how many people are cooking a Moroccan inspired dish tonight? b) yes, but how many of them are doing it with the real thing that they bought in Morocco on their honeymoon trip!
Miggy and her “camel meat!”
Miggy says, more s’il vous plaît!
Moroccan carrot salad with raisins, pistachios and of course, ras el hanout!