Posted on April 10, 2016
My Saturdays in Marrakesh are spent hunting and gathering, hanging out and sometimes haggling. Though I may have errands to run, there’s no yard to keep, house to clean, or car to wash. Shopping in stores, on the street, and in the market followed by lunch in the mix or above it is a time to stock up, catch up with friends, relax.
Grabbing Grub in Gueliz
Moving to Morocco meant giving up a car and Kroger to fill my trunk with food for the week. It also meant leaving my deck grill–which I used for most meals come rain, snow, or sunshine. In the suburbs of Nashville we drove everywhere for everything. Though Target was the distance of about a city block away, it never occurred to me (or anyone I knew) to walk there and lug groceries home.
I’d always romanticized the way Meg Ryan in movies set in New York City built her dinner bag-by-bag as she strolled home from work. I thought it would be fun to live in the Big Apple, no worries over car insurance or repairs and fresh produce on every street corner. I never dreamed I’d get a version of that in Africa.
In my neighborhood of Gueliz, “the New City,” I can do a Meg Morning–picking vegetables from sidewalk carts (though here they are pulled by donkeys), choosing meat from the butcher’s display case, grabbing a loaf of bread from the bakery, and buying roses at flower stalls (a dozen for $2 ). For birthday treats or holiday feasts, there are French-style specialty shops selling cheeses and desserts. To save time, I still default to a weekly one-stop-shop, either Carrefour (a French chain that carries imported prosciutto/other pork and wine) or Acima whose citron (lemon) tarts are amazing. Though I know to buy only what I can carry in my backpack and bag for several blocks, I optimistically overstuff both. Harnessing a too-heavy backpack too many times has led to a torn shoulder over the last two years, but I’m stronger for the walking and enjoy the fresh air.
“But my favorite remained the basic roast chicken. What a deceptively simple dish. I had come to believe that one can judge the quality of a cook by his or her roast chicken. Above all, it should taste like chicken: it should be so good that even a perfectly simple, buttery roast should be a delight.” —Julia Child, My Life in France
For a dinner with friends, I bought a whole, herb-roasted chicken with potatoes from La Maison du Poulet. The owner proudly said his birds are free range and organic. The taste would make Julia Child shrilly shriek with pleasure.
With no rent, utilities, or transportation to work to pay, my weekly budget is $100 which covers groceries (I cook a dutch oven of beef stew, shrimp chowder, chili, or coq au vin on Sunday that is dinner until Thursday and make salads or pasta for lunches), a restaurant with friends or takeout on weekends, a pool day here and there, weekly yoga (or my first year, Moroccan dance lessons) and having the apartment cleaned twice a month. Some coworkers have ladies who clean, cook, or provide childcare multiple times weekly, but my one bedroom only requires cleaning/clothes washed every other Friday for 200 Dirhams per month ($20). When I want Moroccan food, for an additional 50 dirhams ($5) and 70-80 dirhams ($7-8 for groceries), Saida, an amazing lady, cooks so much chicken couscous and vegetables that I have enough for 8 meals so must freeze some. Lack of preservatives in meats, breads, vegetables, and fruits means I have to use what I buy faster and shop more often, but I’m healthier for that.