Cous Cous Friday
To all of our family and friends who may not know of this,I introduce a beloved Moroccan phenomenon: Cous Cous Friday. In Islam, Friday is a holy day. Men are especially reverent about going to the mosque to pray, and the streets seem to quiet down just a little bit. But even for non-Muslims in Morocco, the ritual of cous cous makes Friday special. My host sister, (and our Darija teacher) Fatima Zahara, tells me that of course there are those who only prepare cous cous on a rare occasion- it is, after all, a very labor intensive dish to make. Luckily for me, Fatima Zahara and her mother are not among this group. They are avid lovers of cous cous (although I think most Moroccans are), and thus it is a central focus of the average Friday. Fatima Zahara told me that in this house, the cous cous fanatacism goes so far as to indulge on even days that are not Friday- just because they can!
And so, lunch on Friday was greatly anticipated (not unlike every meal in this household, which my host mother prepares with unparalleled gourmet panache). After a morning of careful crafting, my host mother Fatima presented a beautiful platter of red and blue porcelain as a mere backdrop to the endless pile of fluffy grain that sat atop it. Too much, you ask? Hardly. The cous cous was accompanied by a stunning array of carrots, squash, and cauliflower stewed with what I believe was lamb. I am a vegetarian, but even I could appreciate what appeared to be meat that all but fell off the bone. The vegetables themselves were equally tender. There was other food on the table, but who could pay attention to anything other than the starring dish? Of particular note is the buttermillk that accompanies cous cous. My family, who has played gracious host to innumberable foreigners in the past, informed me that their non-Moroccan guests rarely enjoy the buttermilk,but I found it to be a curious but well suited complement to the cous cous.
I proceeded through the meal with caution, lest I overindulge to the point of fatigue as is easy to do here, but nonetheless I thoroughly enjoyed this weekly decadence. Just as we were all recovering from our midday feast (not until late in the day was the thought of more food even fathomable), and it seemed that the distant memory of such cous cous would have to sustain until the next Friday, a second platter appeared in time for dinner. A lovely end to the holy day.