My secret garden at Dar Zitoun, our riad in Azemmour, 90 km south of Casablanca
The lingering smell of smoke from the terrible fires in San Marcos (about 7miles east of us) has evaporated. The breeze swept away the film of burnt ash that covered our patio. What a sinking, heartsick feeling to stand on our rooftop terrace and view the macabre fireworks lighting up the string of nearby hills around Cal State San Marcos, about 7 miles away. The university was evacuated, and their commencement ceremonies put off for a week. Couple that with incessant TV coverage of the worst hit areas around us, and you get the idea: San Diego County suffered.
The dramatic episode brought to mind our long ago honeymoon: I insisted on taking Owen to the Moroccan oasis of Ouarzazate (now Morocco’s “Hollywood”). It must have been at least 115 degrees in the (non-existent) shade. Not only did we battle burning “chergui” or “sirocco” winds similar to California’s Santa Anas, but in Morocco, they carried clouds of ravenous locusts. Ha! Memories!
Events like the fires help put things in perspective. I am always amazed at the equanimity of newly homeless homeowners. “We’re alive, our family is safe, and so are our animals. That’s what’s important. We will rebuild.”
Would I react the same way? I don’t know. One thing is for sure, I am REALLY going prepare my emergency suitcase, just in case. If you were told to evacuate NOW, are you prepared? What would you put in the “grab and go” boxes before a hurried escape?
A touch of spring lingers. A mockingbird wakes us up each morning with a concert of chirps, obsessed with its need to attract a mate. The bird, like homeowners with burnt out houses, take the long view. I will try that approach!
Mint Tea and Minarets: Chronicles from the Kasbah is a finalist in the 2012 San Diego Book Awards. Please send good vibes my way on June 9th, the day the winner is announced!
My latest book, a memoir of "my" Morocco with 34 luscious family recipes, took ten years to write. It will soon see the light as an ebook, Inch Allah! Keep checking this site for details.
Here is a little taste of Mint Tea and Minarets:
“Behold, a singular structure soars above the banks of the Oum er-Rbia, Mother of Spring River, within the ramparts of the 16th century medina of Azemmour — Dar Zitoun, erstwhile “House of the Pasha.” Into her late father’s painstakingly restored riad, Moorish mansion, Kitty Morse, author of Mint Tea and Minarets, an expert on Moroccan cuisine, warmly coaxes you. Generations of cooks and centuries of celebration there sweeten the invitation. Dar Zitoun has many delicious stories to tell.
An hour south of Kitty’s native Casablanca, scour the Azemmour souk for seasonal ingredients, then meet Dar Zitoun’s gifted cuisinier Bouchaib to concoct aromatic tagines. In the footfall of her father, she uncovers the provenance of her culinary passion: Dar Zitoun was an ancient cooking school. Follow Kitty as she seeks out bibi beldi, free-range turkey, at a farm on the Doukkala plain and is instructed in falconry by Kwacem tribesmen, the only commoners authorized to capture and train the raptors. Frequent a Bedouin camel market, consult with a practitioner of native medicine, and hunt for the source of the Oum er-Rbia in the High Atlas Mountains.
Having grown up in North Africa during the French Protectorate, a unique time in history, Kitty has a pied-noir’s rarified perspective. Fresh burdens as executor of her father’s estate help build an appetite, while each chapter divulges a recipe that matches the tale just told. Meanwhile, Morocco’s Byzantine legal system introduces an amusing cast of other-cultured characters in this window into the mosaic that characterizes the northwest corner of Africa, Al Mahgreb Al Aqsa, The Land Where the Sun Sets.”