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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Traveling to Morocco

This past month I traveled out of the country to Morocco. I was there to experience a retreat site for possibly bringing yoga groups for vacation. I am a seasoned traveler, but it is always an inconvenience to travel knowing that the world at large does not follow the same standard of diet that I do. Putting aside any hopes that the world had changed since I last wandered an airport or ate an airlines prepared meal, I made sure to pack an assortment of foods to ensure I had what I needed for the week to come.

At home my morning breakfast is a smoothie made with a combination of unsweetened hemp milk or water, hemp seed protein powder, flax meal, psyllium husk powder, a green powder, half a banana, frozen blueberries and stevia powder to make it taste just right. I prefer a sweet taste in the morning and this drink satisfies that craving along with my nutritional needs for the next 3-4 hours. Given that my body is conditioned to have this fiber rich, nutrient dense meal I made sure to bring along a variation of these ingredients in package or capsule form. Once at the retreat site I was able to juice ripe Moroccan oranges from the tree outside my window, and combine this with my greens, fiber and a banana. Needless to say I was soon sharing my morning smoothies with a few of the other yogis present. 

So breakfast was taken care of, but what about my other meals?

On this trip I was gratefully surprised to find that much of the Moroccan diet consists of vegetables and salads, small amounts of lamb, chicken, fish or beef, and homemade bread dipped in locally grown olive oil. As a matter of fact for breakfast I had watched the cook prepare the morning bread, much like an Indian naan flat bread, and serve it with oil cured black olives, butter, orange marmalade and Moroccan mint tea. Being a morning smoothie kind of gal, this proved a bit heavy and oily for me, but one should note that this is a typical morning meal for many cultures around the world. Bread, butter or oil, coffee, tea, milk, and sugar. Not exactly a king size meal, but one to begin the day and hold the appetite until lunch was served around 3:00 in the afternoon.

Yes, you are correct in thinking that I wished I had eaten a large helping of bread and olives to get me to the next meal. Those first few days were good for detoxifying, however, I had also brought along a few packages of sprouted raw foods crackers for snacks. Once in Morocco I was able to purchase some fresh dates and walnuts at the local market. These I snacked on until the afternoon meal was served. Just note that although you may bring along enough food for yourself, no one else will have thought to do the same and before long you will be handing out your precious cargo to the hungry hordes. Make sure to bring enough to share or accept that your supply of goodies won’t last but a few days.

The afternoon meal consisted of a mountain of steamed cous cous topped with boiled vegetables served with a herb and spice infused sauce on the side. Other times the traditional Moroccan tagine was served. This arrived at the table in a well-used shallow earthenware dish topped with a pyramid shaped dome. When lifted a cloud of steam revealed an assortment of vegetables cooked simply with water, a splash of olive oil and spices. This was very delicious served over rice or pasta along with a fresh tomato salad tossed with lemon and olive oil. Water was the beverage of choice pumped from a well dug 40 meters deep.

We ate with six people sitting at a low round table and digging into the large bowl of food with hands, forks and spoons. Eating this way, as a group, added to the enjoyment of the meal.

The afternoon siesta followed, which is traditional for many of the Mediterranean countries. Stores close, people settle down to rest and let the heat of the day pass them by. Four o’clock the sun is softer on the eyes and the heat begins to retreat for the night, making it comfortable to emerge from the cool shadows of the house and return to the fields to gather wheat, herd the sheep, continue construction or pass the time sitting on the side of the road watching the occasional car go by.

 Once night had fallen the dinner preparations began and we gathered around the low table to eat warm bowls of vegetables, fish, salad and a denser version of the mornings bread. Dessert was always a large bowl of fruit placed in the center of the table and someone would peel a fat, thick skinned orange, split it into six pieces and pass them around the table. It was just enough and nothing more was needed.

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