In Peace Corps Morocco

Cooking for Ourselves

As a part of our training our group was responsible for cooking a meal for ourselves using local foods and resources. We decided to make chicken stir fry, sounded easy enough. We had some vegetables but we had to buy rice and chicken. Yorda and I were in our usual store trying to describe rice to the owners without being sure of the word. Couscous is like gold around here so of course everyone knows what it is. Yorda was attempting to tell them couscous, but longer. Using a series of hand gestures and basic adjectives. After a few minutes we had others around us participating as well. At a point one kid thought he knew what we were talking about, but he was wrong. The whole time I kept saying “ruz” in my head and finally in the end I stopped second guessing myself and just blurted it out. Turns out I was right and everyone cheered. We asked for a half kilo of ruz and went along on our way. When we showed this rice to Lahcen and Malika they said it was not the rice we were looking for. Unrenowned to us there are different kinds of rice depending on what you want to use it for. The kind we got apparently gets all sticky and mushy when you cook it and it is for some special rice dish comparable to rice pudding. So later Malika told us exactly what to ask for and we attempted to buy it again. We said exactly what she told us to and we got the same rice the second time. We decided to just suck it up and use it.
So we also had to buy chicken and up to this point Malika always bought our meat for us. But since we were doing all this ourselves we were sent out to buy some chicken. Rachael and I arrived at one of the many butcher shops. It was near the end of the day so there was no more headless, naked chickens hanging in the window. We asked for a half kilo of chicken and the butcher disappeared into the back. We of course figured that we would go pull some from the refrigerator in the back. Next we heard a generic squawking and struggling sound come from a live chicken. Rachael and I looked at each other with a look of shock and fright. Then the butcher comes out carrying a live chicken by the neck. He places it on a scale. We knew what was about to happen to him. In the few seconds that I knew that chicken alive I named it George. We weren’t sure why but next the butcher ran with the chicken a few shops down. We stood there and conversed for about 10 minutes knowing all the while what was happening to the chicken. It was hard for me to picture exactly what form George would come back to us in. When he returned I saw a naked warm chicken still steaming. Apparently the de-feathering machine creates a lot of heat. Then George was cut in half and put in a black plastic bad. I had to walk away holding something in my hand that I had just seen alive 10 minutes earlier. We knew this was how people bought chicken however it was our first time doing it. Apparently it is cheaper to just buy yourself a live chicken and do all the legwork at home. So it is not uncommon to see people walking through town carrying live chickens by the legs or neck while they do their other errands.
To make a long story short our meal was awful. Somehow we had forgotten spices, which are an absolute staple of all Moroccan dishes. The rice was just as bad as we expected it to be. Yorda compared it to food that hospitals give to heart attack patients. George was pretty tasty though, I must say.

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