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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Woops- Marrakech

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Uh oh. I fear that I've made a bigger blunder than I had thought. I have been away for far too long, and I don't like it at all. In my defense, though, I was out of the country for two weeks. Not a good enough excuse? Well, I did bring you a little something as a peace offering. So hear me out before you abandon me completely- please?

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We started our journey in Marrakech. Our first day there we wandered for hours through the souks, men calling "Snooki" and "Hannah Montana" as we passed, despite our consciously conservative dress. We putzed around and poked into little shops that sold intricate silver teapots, shops offering harem pants in a rainbow of colors, shops trying to convince you that a wooden puzzle box would be perfect on your coffee table. But we all know which were my favorite shops and stands. The ones that sold food, of course.

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There were small stands in the square outside of the marketplace lined up, ready to squeeze ripe, local oranges into a glass before your eyes. I'm not sure I can ever drink orange juice again after having it in Morocco. It is unbelievably sweet and really tastes of orange, unlike many packaged juices. Beside the juice stands were quite a few stands selling myriad dried fruits from apricots to dates (my particular favorites) and every type of nut you could imagine. A short wandering into the main souk revealed shops tucked away behind leather bag kiosks full to the brim with spices. I managed to pick up 5 grams of saffron for 20 dirham, which is about $2.43, an incredible deal.

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At night, the souk became a massive string of restaurants, all competing for your business, all selling marvelously aromatic food. Meandering through them trying to decide where to eat made me wild with hunger. I couldn't wait any longer, so my friend Ellie and I finally plopped down at a stand selling sheep's head, while our more traditional eaters sat at the booth next to us for a dinner of brochettes and calamari. Bits of the sheep's head were quite unnerving, to be honest. Some looked fuzzy, and some were waaaaaay to slimy to even attempt to eat.

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The brain was surprisingly delicious. In fact, it tasted a bit like soft roe. It was smooth and rich, almost too rich, and it tasted faintly of lamb. The udders were my favorite part. They were a little tough, as expected, but were so flavorful and delicious. Our next foray into strange foods was the snail stew, called Mustapha. It was probably the least strange thing we ate, but it will definitely be the last I try again.

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We ate so many tagines I couldn't even count them. Most were made with lamb and vegetables and were heady with cumin and paprika and boldly wore the golden hue of turmeric. We ate them on rooftop restaurants, we ate them at cafes in the souk, we even ate them in the middle of a river. As ubiquitous as the tagines were, the mint tea was even more popular. If you've never had it before, you truly must. It is ridiculously strong and very, very sweet. In my opinion, Morocco is the place to be and definitely the place to eat well. If you can't make it over, at least head out to your nearest Moroccan restaurant or whip something up at home.

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