Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Animal, Vegetable, Minaret: Fez Medina, Part 3

Vegetable: Part Three of a three-part series
Read Part One or Part Two (To enlarge photos, click on images.)

A mint mogul; apricots aplenty; a lettuce and egg tycoon

Oh Morocco. How you teased me with your fragrant fruits, voluptuous veggies, perfumed petals and aromatic herbs. Flaunting them in my face each time I walked through the Fez medina when you knew I wasn't there to cook. At least ogling your impressive bounty reassured me that I wouldn’t be dining on tagine in a tin or couscous in a can. And on the days I didn’t splurge on chicken or fish, your vegetarian harvest teamed up to satisfy and sustain me. On second thought, I'm glad I was doing the ogling and you were doing the cooking.  

An orange impresario; a mulberry mogul; fresh mulberries; a green onion purr-veyor

On the train from Casablanca to Fez, I witnessed mile after mile of lush landscapes and fertile fields. For a desert country, Morocco is really quite diverse with forests, mountains and coastlines. And due to a sophisticated irrigation system, you're pretty much self-sufficient except for grains, sugar, coffee and tea. From what I saw on the streets and on my plates, you're rolling in olives, almonds, citrus, stone fruits, grapes, melons, berries, artichokes and dates. I was especially thrilled to find turnips in my tagines. At home, they hardly turn up anywhere.

A watermelon magnate; string beanmobile; a street-legal herb entrepreneur

Unlike a lot of Latin American countries I’ve traveled to, in Morocco I could eat raw fruits and vegetables since water safety wasn't an issue. It not only meant I could take a shower without pursing my lips shut, I could partake in glorious Moroccan salads with mouth wide open. Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and olives were always there to greet my palate at the start of each meal. Often there'd be beets, carrots, green beans, potatoes and roasted zucchini or eggplant in it too. I marveled at how an entrepreneur could make a living pushing a cart of herbs, as there’s more money to be had in hashish. But I never saw anyone pushing that. 

Wild artichokes; rose petals; 7 Spices

And even though I was on a vacation from myself and tried not to overthink things, I couldn't help but wonder about pesticide use on the fruits and veggies. Had American Big Ag infiltrated every corner of the globe? Since I had been on a seven-month allergy cleanse and was nervous about reintroducing foods like wheat, corn, eggs and red pepper while I was there, I did a little research before my trip. Seems that crops are grown differently in other countries, and many people who can’t eat wheat from the U.S. have no problems with it in Europe and abroad. So with fingers crossed I had my first croissant, and feeling symptom-free, my vacation from self really began.

Three kinds of bread; preserved lemons; herbed olives

I was also curious about the use of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). During my research, I discovered that the GOM (Government of Morocco) has a close trade relationship with France and about 60% of Morocco's exports are to the EU. Since France and Europe are largely anti-GMO, Morocco does not allow any GMO seeds to enter Morocco and does not export any GMOs to the EUHowever the GOM imports a large amount of soybeans and corn from the US. Are they GMOs? I can't tell from my findings. While the GOM doesn't have the biotechnology in place to produce their own GMOs, it sounds like it may be on the horizon. Uh oh. I'm starting to feel the need for another vacation from self.

Preserved things in jars; olive pyramids and other conical delights

But when I was surrounded by the great pyramids, it was hard to wrap my head around all that. The only thing I wanted to wrap around my head was a fig necklace. 

Home-grown jewelry; someone's playing hide and souk

So in the end, I lived in the moment and learned to trust. Funny how I may have ended up trusting the GOM more than the USA.

Related Links:
Animal, Vegetable, Minaret: Fez Medina, Part 1
Animal, Vegetable, Minaret: Fez Medina, Part 2
Letting Go and a Moroccan Gigolo


  1. Awesome as always!!! I enjoyed every word and photo of this trilogy. I can't wait for your next vacation. :)

  2. I think when I go to Morocco I will get accommodations with a kitchen, so I can cook with all those marvelous ingredients. Wow. Amazing.

  3. marvelous, Adair! love all your pics as well as your wonderful writing!

  4. This is fantastic. Wishing I was walking through those markets! The images are beautiful. Love them all, but especially the watermelons.

  5. Gorgeous, the rose petals alone are a sight to behold, all those other images, simply grand! Thank you for sharing these wonderful sights!

  6. best thing I've read in a couple of weeks - "on vacation from myself"

  7. Hey there :) Popped over to say I adore your story telling and surreal photography :)

    Looks like you have another follower from now on :)

  8. God I haven't seen wild artichokes for ages! wonderful post.

  9. Hey Adair, loving this blog, did you try the lovely lemon olives with coriander and chillies. I bought loads of them and ate them out of a bag walking around the souks. I also tried camel tagine being invited by a butcher in the Fez souk, it really helped being able to speak fluent French, I love Morocco so much, it is my spiritual home. The people are so gentle and I love the way they accept you as long as you are polite. A truly amazing country.