The Spice of Life: Moroccan Food
An exceptional melding of flavors from the Arabic, French, Spanish and Jewish cultures that left their mark on the country, Moroccan cuisine is rich in color, spice and texture. Not only is it tasty fare (a given), but it's beautifully presented and created to have alluring scents. Interestingly, the best food is said to be found in people's homes, not restaurants; Moroccans serve guests bountiful meals, as it's considered a disgrace if you let your guests leave a meal while they're still hungry [source: Every Culture].
Lunch is the main meal and, like most, is served on low tables surrounded by cushions. You eat Moroccan food from a communal bowl with the first three fingers of your right hand (not the left, which is reserved for the toilet!). You may also scoop up the food with any bread that is served. While there are innumerable Moroccan dishes, of course, three of the most typical meals are couscous, tagine and harira. Couscous is a grain often cooked with spices, veggies, nuts and raisins; meat may also be added. It can be eaten as a side dish or main meal. Tagine is a spicy stew cooked in an earthenware vessel also called a tagine, from which the stew gets its name. Harira is considered Morocco's national soup, although it's more like a thick paste. Like couscous and tagine, it has many variations, but traditionally consists of bouillon, beef or mutton, onions, saffron and walnuts.
As Morocco is bordered by both the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, fish is a popular entrée. Lamb and chicken are also widely available; beef is rare. Some common spices used are cumin, coriander, saffron, chilies, dried ginger, cinnamon and paprika. Nuts are prevalent in Moroccans' diets, as is fruit, which is often served as dessert. Figs and dates are especially popular. When confections are on the menu, they're often treats made from almonds, cinnamon and fruits rolled in phyllo dough, then soaked in honey [source: Cuisine Net].
Moroccans always serve mint tea at the end of meals. But don't look for any alcohol, as imbibing is against the rules of Islam. Speaking of which, as Muslims, Moroccans must fast from dawn until dusk during the 30 days of Ramadan, so restaurants are closed during the day. Most families prepare harira to eat as soon as the sun goes down, followed by a larger meal later in the evening [source: Every Culture, Food in Every Country]. Religion influences other aspects of Moroccan culture as well, particularly when it comes to what people wear.