Last weekend we had a visitor spend Saturday and Sunday night with us. Mostafa lives in a town about 40 miles from Casablanca and traveled to Fes by train. His brother, who lives and works in Canada, returned to Morocco for a visit during the spring, and he and Mostafa were able to visit us in Fes in early May. We met the members of this family in 2009 and have managed to visit in their home at least once every year since that time.
Mostafa had never been to Fes before last spring and thoroughly enjoyed getting acquainted with the city most Moroccans consider their most important, at least from a cultural and historical point of view. We connected them with one of Zoubida’s grandsons who served as their unofficial tour guide and was available again this past weekend. To reward Houssine for his assistance and to provide Mostafa with a unique culinary experience, Denise enlisted Zoubida and her daughters to prepare our required (once each trip at least) fried chicken extravaganza.
During the eighties Denise taught Zoubida to cook several special meals for us, each of “the comfort food” variety. Cross cultural living is not a particularly easy thing to do, especially over an extended period of time. One would be surprised how much pleasure can be derived from familiar dishes, well-prepared and shared in a convivial atmosphere with close, abiding friends.
That is not to say that we do not enjoy Moroccan food, nor that Zoubida was not already very astute in preparing our noonday meals five days a week for over two years. Visitors who have traveled with us will affirm my assessment of her skills as a cook, and we are always anxious to have friends eat with Zoubida’s family. It’s a sure fire way to have compliments redound to us even though we are merely participants. At my last count, there have been between 90 and 100 Americans who have eaten in her home. To my knowledge none ever found it to be a negative experience. On a “micro” scale, I think she has contributed a lot to American-Moroccan relations.
Denise discovered years ago she could give money to Zoubida to purchase the food for a meal, and for just a little extra, there would be enough food for several others to share the meal. Certainly more economical than taking guests to a restaurant, and a more authentic experience. Though only two daughters reside with her, a third daughter with two children live in the same neighborhood. Along with Houssine and assorted friends and neighbors, there is often a large gathering for the meal. Saturday we numbered ten.
Mostafa had never eaten fried chicken before, but did not think that we had not oversold its value. Along with green salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, there was the obligatory fruit course. Later we enjoyed mint tea and pastries. Everyone agreed that the repast was exceptional.
As much enjoyment as the meal provided, there were many other benefits. Sharing good times with friends we have known for almost 20 years now, enhancing our role as “aunt and uncle” to the next generation in the Daif family, and facilitating connections between older and newer acquaintances in Morocco effect a conviction that occasionally some of our activities contribute to a transcendent result. Ever trying to improve our Arabic in such situations, I attempted but fell woefully short of effectively translating “finger lickin’ good.” However, I was able to demonstrate!