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Category Archives: Moroccan Food

Food Costs – USA vs. Morocco

We have just recently returned from a 2 month trip to the US.  This was our first trip back to the US since leaving to move to Morocco two years ago.  It was an amazing trip and a great adventure, but it brought a lot of things into perspective for me as well.  In the next few weeks, I will be posting a series of posts about things I learned or thought about during the trip, as well as some cool pictures from the journey.

Today, I am going to talk about food.  When we left for the US, we were so excited to be getting a taste of the foods we have been missing for the past two years – tortillas, thick crust pizza, sour cream and onion chips, berries, cottage cheese etc.  While in the US, we definitely took part in lots of these great luxuries and enjoyed them.  We ate tacos A LOT, and splurged on all of our favorite junk food.  However, we found that there were an equal amount of foods from Morocco that we missed while we were in the US – fresh baked bread and, fresh vegetables and fruits with flavor being two of the key things we missed.  This highlighted, for me, the differences between foods in the US and Morocco.  In the US, the food is often based around what smells good, looks good and stays good forever (I completely forgot how many preservatives can be in food).  In Morocco, the food is based around what tastes good, and is good for you.  Now this is not to say that there is no junk food in Morocco – I can attest that there is plenty!  However, the overall prevalence of it is less – with the distinct distinction being French Fries, which can be found EVERYWHERE!

The other key difference in food between the US and Morocco is cost.  I know that the cost of living is higher in the US, but the cost of food is SO much higher in the US.  In the US, I spent approximately 35% of my monthly budget on food.  In Morocco, I spend approximately 19% of my monthly budget on food.  This is a HUGE difference.  To illustrate my point, here is what we picked up today at the souk:

What $16 will buy you at a souk in Morocco - a cost comparison of food in Morocco to food in the USA at Journey to Morocco from Raki's Rad Resources.

This lot of fruit, vegetables, pasta, cookies and rice cost us 130DH, which is $15.59.  It will last me for the entire week.  We will eat meals off of it, but also snacks, and make smoothies each day with the fruit.  All of the food was grown by local farmers, who send their food to Bouskoura – near Casablanca, on Tuesdays.  Each town in this area has a day when this “Farmer’s Souk” comes to the area and provides fresh food and other goods for those who don’t have transportation into the city and the larger souks that lie there.

If I were to buy this same amount of food in the US, it would cost about 3 times the amount, especially because the majority of it is fruits and vegetables, which we found to be the most expensive items to buy in the US.  In a country where obesity is an issue, the US has cheap grains, processed foods and other junk, but expensive fruits, vegetables and quality meat (the kind that doesn’t eat corn and antibiotics as their main meal).  Ask for your fruits and vegetables not to be covered in pesticides (you know – grown organically) and you up your price even more.  If you are on a budget in the US – and we completely were traveling on a budget – you end up buying cheaper, less quality foods, so that you can buy enough to keep your family full.

Now, let’s talk about packaging.  I forgot how many items come pre-packaged for individual servings, something that is rare here in Morocco – unless you’re buying cookies.  In one supermarket, I found applesauce in a jar, applesauce in a cup and applesauce that could be squeezed out of little tubes.  I know that applesauce in a cup can be convenient, but how hard is it really, to pour it into a small bowl?  At least with applesauce in a cup, you can re-use the cup later for snacks or arts and crafts, or you can recycle it.  With applesauce in a tube, what are you doing with that extra packaging, except throwing it away?  I know they’re charging you for it, because it’s definitely more expensive that the one large jar of applesauce.  I was glad to see how many recycling programs there were in the US, especially out west, but the idea of pre-packaging everything seems to defeat the purpose.

I know that the Moroccan food system is not perfect.  In fact, many Moroccans are trying to mimic the US food system, which has brought the advent of things like individual serving cookies and snacks.  I just find it easier to buy the food I enjoy eating, in packaging that makes me more comfortable, at a price I can afford.  And after a trip to the US, I will still crave sour cream and tortillas, but I know that I am content to have those as luxuries when we travel, so that we can live on a steady diet of affordable fruits and vegetables.

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Posted by on August 20, 2013 in Moroccan Food

 

I survived……

the first day of Ramadan!  This is the first time I have every tried to fast during Ramadan, so surviving Day 1 is super exciting to me!  Millions of Muslims around the world fast every day for an entire month, denying themselves food and water from sunrise to sunset.  This year for Ramadan, I decided I wanted to experience this with them.  Now, don’t jump to any conclusions, I am not converting to Islam. I am lucky enough to be married to a Muslim man who believes that I can and should believe anything I wish, and while I am enjoying exploring the religion, I do not feel any need to convert. However, I do want to experience life from other people’s point of view.  My reasons for wanting to try this are: 

1. to prove to myself that I can do it 

2.  to better appreciate the goodies and treats that are used to celebrate making it through a day of fasting 

3. to experience for myself the appreciation of having food on a regular basis that comes as part of fasting for Ramadan

4.  to share the experience with my 8 year old who is “trying” Ramadan for the first time and with my husband who has been doing Ramadan for the last 26 years

I don’t know if this will be the only Ramadan I participate in, or if I will even make it through the whole month, but I will check in periodically to let you know how it is going.  Here are my reflections from the first day, and some pictures of our Iftar feast.

I woke up at 3 a.m. the night before the fast to eat Suhoor, a meal of sustenance to help you through your fast.  I had oatmeal, with apples and carrots mixed in (loading up on the fiber!) and a smoothie made of avocado, milk and banana, as well as a bunch of water.  Then, back to sleep, and up with the baby around 7 a.m.  The overall fasting wasn’t bad, but there were silly things, like remembering not to like my fingers after feeding the baby something from my hands.  The smells and aromas of all foods were definitely amplified when I fed Zaiyd and Sam and when I began preparing for “Iftar” – the meal when you break your fast.  (I know people who fast and work in food service, and I can’t imagine how difficult this must be!)  We knew we would break our fast at 7:39 p.m., and by 4:00 p.m., we were in the kitchen beginning preparations.  My husband made the Haraia, the lentil soup that is full of protein and vitamins.  The boys helped me to make Zucchini bread (not traditionally Moroccan, but much loved in my household, and another way to get vegetables in).  I boiled eggs, and made a cheese ball recipe from my cookbook.  I am trying out one new recipe a day for Ramadan.  I made flan and warmed up M’smen (a Moroccan flat bread that we buy in bulk and freeze) and a Baguette.  At the last minute, we made coffee, and put out dates, chebekeah (the most delicious cookies that basically consist of deep fried dough coated in honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds), a bowl of fruit and some juice for the boys.  Our Iftar is not always traditionally Moroccan, but is like our family – a mixture of American and Moroccan that fits best for our family. 

We were so anxious to eat that the table was set about 10 minutes before it was time to eat.  I used this time to take pictures for this post, and we watched a little tv.  Then, we heard the call for prayer and we began to eat.  I expected the first bite to be a big deal, but then I forgot that I have small kids who need to be helped out first, lol!  My first bite was actually a part of a banana I was serving to Sam.  I enjoyed all of the treats, but found that the chebekeah that I devoured in mounds last year (when I wasn’t fasting) was actually too sweat to eat more than one.  I also decided the coffee was too sweat right then, and opted for some leftover smoothie from Suhoor instead.  The haraia was amazing and the eggs tasted perfect.  My body craved the proteins and that is what I ate.  The whole process really makes me think about what my body NEEDS rather than what it wants.  When we were done eating, we sat around chit chatting and I had a great feeling of appreciation for the life that I have and the ability to have this experience.  We then went out and walked and enjoyed the night air.  After we returned home (and had to put Zaiyd through the window b/c we had forgotten a key, lol!)  We put the kiddos to bed and I enjoyed some rice and beans before heading to bed. 

It is now officially Day 2 and just writing this for you is making my stomach grumble, but I know that I can make it through.  That is part of what Ramadan is doing for me, building confidence in myself.  Now, here are some pictures of our Iftar table from yesterday:

Ramadan iftar meal

The Whole Table of Goodies

chebekeah - Ramadan iftar meal

Chebekeah – the cookie of the gods!

haraiah - Ramadan iftar meal

Haraiah – Ramadan soup with lentils

cheese balls - Ramadan iftar meal

Cheese Balls – Ramadan Recipe of Day 1

zuchini bread - Ramadan iftar meal

Zucchini Bread – a Family Favorite

Ramadan Kareem to those celebrating!

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources and Journey to Morocco

 

 
 
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