Would you like a cup of tea?
Our monthly newsletter/blog is a month behind due to travel in India and Morocco since the end of January. February in India was a rich display of humanity moving in living color of grace, beauty, taste and feeling. The experience is so raw and breathtaking that it takes a while to digest. From India I swung through London to Marrakech, steeped in a strong brew of experience. Traveling gives us not only the opportunity to get away, experience something new, but we learn how to deepen our relationship to a more engaged way of living. Old world traditions based in ancient wisdom help us to educate ourselves not only with history and a traditional way of doing things, but also a glimpse into old world manners.
What is the meaning of hospitality? There is a code of ethics that exists in most homes, even the simplest – not only how to treat a guest, but how to be one, what a proper welcome is, how to be a good host and how to receive. These gestures offer us kindness and it makes us feel so good when we are away from our own homes. In India the guest is god. Every time I am there, I feel well… like a Maharani.
In Morocco, there are rituals for entering a home. Sometimes your hands are doused in rose water and you are given dates dipped in milk. Tea is prepared in front of you and poured ceremoniously. Moroccans are ready to accept a guest at all times. Neither is there protocol to let someone know you are coming. Someone is home and always cooking. I would say their favorite word is “mrHba”, welcome. You hear it a 100 times a day.
Their cuisine is nutrient rich – bread, dates, dried fruits, nuts, legumes, meats and of course vegetables and sweets. Their tagine – a terracotta conical shaped lid placed over a terracotta base – is round, set on a round table ready for people to sit around it. There’s always room for a guest.
I could spend hours walking the narrow pathways of the medina watching the artisans at work, watching carts of luscious figs and fruits, sweet seed bars, and freshly fried doughnuts go by. I am not hungry enough to try all of the deliciousness the Marrakech bazaars have to offer. Not to mention, the myriad shops full of tea cups and tea pots and.. invitations to tea. It’s not always about bargaining. It’s about making relationships and finding the thresholds of trust.
Our Culinary Adventures are not only about learning new recipes and how to get our hands in the food. They are about immersing ourselves into the culture through the food and learning how a life can be rhythmic and civilized, centered around real meals that take us right to the heart of a culture, through the senses. We are mesmerized and transported by taste. It opens our eyes. We open up to new ways of appreciating life.
You may find yourself opening your spice box at home in a swoon. Colorful images and memories will swirl like a genie invisibly above your head. You will be transported each time you smell cumin, pinch the saffron, and rub the fresh mint between your fingers before you add it to your tea pot. This feeling of delight laced with a story or two will delight your loved ones like a tale from 1001 Arabian Nights and you will think silently to yourself.. “ahhh… today my life has given fruit”.
Photos: Stephen Smith