A Cooking Class in Fes

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Where I stayed
Riad Tizwa Fes
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of Morocco  ,
Sunday, May 22, 2011

If you recall I compared cooking is for Lowell as porn is for most men. To fulfill this need we organized a cooking class for today. We awoke at 8:00AM to a delicious breakfast of fresh OJ, pancake/crepe with honey, muesli and fresh bottled yogurt. Everything was divine. A Fez local, Fouad arrived a half hour late, 9:30AM, because even he got lost searching for the Riad. He picked us up and took us to his home, where in typical Moroccan culture he lives in the same house he grew up in along with his parents, wife Katima and their three sons.  Upon arrival, together with Katima, we immediately set out to the souks to shop for the necessary ingredients.

Katima informed us that we would be learning the various salads but Lowell also requested to learn the lamb couscous with vegetables, the pastilla of chicken and almonds. To give you a feel for the Medina in Fez, it helps to know that there are 9,000 tiny streets, all of them are brick and or cobblestone and are lined with vendors on both sides. The walls are no more than 8 feet wide, where donkeys, people, mopeds and in some areas, petite taxis all share the same space. Here is an excerpt from Lowell’s perspective:

"Getting lost in a souk is a given, not just turned around, but jungle lost! I don’t believe that even a Garmin can help you in these cities. Thankfully today we were following Katima and didn’t need to ask for help, which is the only other way to make your way out.  Imagine a river gorge with three to four story buildings on both side, and moments when you can’t see the sun. It’s a good thing at times, since the souks remain nearly 20 degrees cooler than out of the walls.

If you are claustrophobic, this is not the place for you. We were told that even if you pride yourself on having an internal GPS, unless you are a Navy Seal, maybe, be prepared to get lost. None of the 9,000 streets travel in a straight line, some go underground, some just end at a door. There are no street signs and even when there are, they are obviously in Arabic. But like Stacey said, at least today we had Katima who acted as a laser beam in the dark. She walked with purpose and found her preferred stalls in an instant. We purchased vegetables by the kilo for cheap, nearly 20lbs of vegetables combined with the lamb and chicken, cost all of 200 DH, the equivalent of under $30.  I got to act as the mule as we lugged the weight from stall to stall, all the while Stacey playing role of photographer.

In my mind selecting the chicken was the best part. I love the sensation of connecting with my food and what better way than being a part of its slaughter. We approached the poultry butcher with the live chickens clucking behind him. Based on our preferred weight, the butcher grabbed one from the coop, swiftly sliced off its head and stuck it feet up in a coffee can. If you have ever heard the expression, chicken with its head cut off, well, we saw it in person. The reason for the can is to keep it in one place. Stacey had to step away at this point. After the legs stopped twitching, they plunged the chicken in hot water for about a minute which releases the feathers from the skin. The butcher proceeded to clean the chicken, quarter it and off we went. Foster Farms does not have anything on this guy as it was as fresh as you can get.

After our venture through the alleys, we made it back to the house and brought all of the food up to the second story kitchen.  Mind you that this is a house and not a restaurant, and had a kitchen the size that you might find in a small home in US.  The stove tops were all propane based and the tanks were located under the counter tops with hoses  running out the front to the cooktops. The knives were steak knives and there were no professional tools outside of the best pressure cookers that I have ever seen.  If I could purchase those in the US I would.  They were the sturdiest of items.  The clamps screwed down and they seemed as if they would never break.  None of this rubber seal BS that I am used to. This was industrial and I now have to look for these on the web."

A tagine is basicly a brasied meat.  If you see it on a menu, that is what you are about to get.  Nothing is cooked via pan.  Everything is a slow process.  So here is what we cooked.

  • 9 salads

  • carrot salad

  • potato salad

  • smoked eggplant salad

  • cauliflower salad

  • green bean salad

  • artichoke salad

  • fried zucchini

  • hot sauce

  • beat salad

  • lamb couscous with vegetables

  • Chicken pastilla with almonds.

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