I’ve never had a particularly large appetite. I rarely finish a full serving of a meal, even if it’s my favorite. On a normal day in the United States I’d eat two meals per day, with a protein bar for breakfast and an apple for snack if I was feeling particularly hungry. When going out to eat at a restaurant I avoid eating salad or bread in fear that I won’t eat the main course.
In Morocco, my life revolves around food. The word I hear most often is kuli, eat. My stomach is stretched beyond its breaking point several times a day, and then a few bites more. My host sisters are relentless, peppering me with kuli kuli kuli chants as I work my way through the meal. When I say I’m full I’m met with unbelieving eyes and zidi shwiya, just a little more. One more tangerine, one more bite of bread, Abir finish the rest of the cucumbers.
The only way I could think to explain the sheer amount of makla I am forced to consume daily was to chronicle an entire day in photos. I promise to be completely honest about what I eat if you promise not to judge me. Waxa? Okay?
8:00AM – Ftar (Breakfast)
My sister gets up every morning and prepares a large breakfast spread just for me (despite my constant insistence that it isn’t necessary). This morning she put out bgrer (top left, a soft and spongey bread), xubs (top right, a basic bread served at most meals), and miloui (bottom, a flakey, buttery tortilla-like bread). I ate the entire piece of miloui and drank two cups of tea. My sister insisted on packing the bgrer for me to bring to class because she didn’t believe me when I declared I was full.
10:30 – Break from class
My fellow trainees and I are afforded a 15-minute break during our 4-hour language class in the morning. We always share the food we have that day. On this morning I had a bit of the bgrer my sister packed, a few pieces of tangerine, and a piece of chocolate. On particularly tough days I’ve taken to running out to the hanut (store) and buying a Coke as a little pick-me-up. I also try to drink all of my water bottle before lunch, as water is the only thing my family doesn’t force feed me.
12:30 – Kaskrot (Tea time)
When I get home from lunch I usually have kaskrot. No, it’s not lunch. (Yes, many of us have made the mistake of thinking this was lunch and later learned there is an entire meal to be had afterward.) On this day I was particularly excited about eating miloui so I ate about half of a large slice and a cup of tea.
2:30pm – Gda (Lunch)
In my family, lunch is the main course of the day. The meal usually consists of some type of meat and vegetables to be eaten with bread. On this day we had a tagine of beef, carrots, and olives with bowls of cucumbers and more olives on the side. To eat, we rip off a piece of xubs and use it to grab bits of food in the tagine (instead of silverware). We each eat from our imaginary “triangle” in front of us in the tagine, saving the meat for last. My family often pushes additional food into my triangle, especially if its looking too empty (read: any dent is made). Lunch is always followed up by a round of fruit, usually tangerines and bananas.
4:30pm – Break from class
Our break from class in the afternoon follows much in the same pattern as the morning. My contribution on this afternoon included tangerines and harsha (a cornmeal-based bread), which I learned to make myself during lunch that day!
6:00pm – Kaskrot (Tea time)
On Mondays the Dar Shabab where I work is closed, so instead of heading there to conduct a class or hang out with the local kids I go straight home. On this day I was invited to a fancy kaskrot at my neighbor’s house, where I was peer pressured by thirty middle-aged women to eat yet another piece of miloui, a slice of cake, and two cups of tea. Even though I could have done without eating at all, it was important for me to eat to show the women I was thankful for their hospitality and company.
10:00pm – 3ssa (Dinner)
My family eats dinner most nights around 10 o’clock. We usually have a small bowl of soup, pasta, or rice. For some reason on this night I was given a personal platter of spaghetti in addition to the main course. I’m not a huge fan of eating this late, so I only ate about a quarter of the pasta with a small piece of xubs and decided to be done for the night.
10:30pm – 3ssa tanya (Second Dinner)
Or so I thought. My host mom came home around 10:30pm with a steaming plate of couscous and vegetables! Normally in Morocco we eat couscous only on Fridays as the dish is quite laborious to prepare, so this was a special treat that I didn’t want to pass up. After admittedly eating more of my triangle than I had originally planned, this time I was finally done eating for the night.
So, if you’re keeping track… that’s 4 meals, 4 snacks, 5 cups of tea, and my body weight in bread. The struggle between reducing my grain intake and making my host sisters happy is paramount every day. Shwiya b shwiya I’ve been able to substitute a yogurt for bread in the morning, eat lunch with smaller pieces of xubs, and learn phrases that prove that I really, truly, am honest-to-goodness full, but it’s still a power struggle I’m learning to maneuver.
If you take only one thing away from this post – please know that I am loved, I am well taken care of, and I will never, ever go hungry in this country.