Sunday, September 21, 2008


Fat bread is called that because fat is a major ingredient – I like to think of it as filled bread, and in fact you can make it without the fat (Abdou’s family does). I’m trying to think of what you would use if you made it in the states – Crisco? Maybe Crisco is one of those things you don’t want to think too much about either. My host mother in Timhadite made great fat bread, and I remember Katie saying, “if you knew how it was made...” Then I watched my Azrou host mother make it, and she used sheets and globs of fat – I guess wool isn’t the only thing that keeps a sheep warm – and then I couldn’t eat it for a while. But I’m embracing my last Ramadan here, and Youssef’s family makes great fat bread, so I asked them to show me how to make it.

I followed as closely as I could, but of course they do things so easily that they don’t measure, and in such bulk that it’s hard to translate into an amount that I might actually make, but I do think I want to try to make it (perhaps without the fat). I think I can do it, too – it just may require some experimentation. And since you might want to make it as well, here’s a summary of my notes:


Filling proportions for one:
One carrot, grated
One onion, diced
Parsley – hm, let’s say a tablespoon – or more – they use a lot here
Spices – hm, how does 1/4 tsp of each of these sound? – salt, pepper, paprika; can put in cayenne pepper, cumin if you like, a little turmeric for color
Fat: Youssef’s family used pellets, which seemed innocuous compared to the sheets/globs – maybe the same amount as the carrot and the onion by volume – or maybe twice as much; hard to tell
A little oil to mix everything up
Set aside while you make bread.

Bread (unfilled, it is called millwi when fried in a skillet. You can also use the same dough to make Moroccan bread in the oven):
Flour – they use a yellowish, more coarse flour here for bread, as opposed to the white flour I use here for whatever I make – I will try to find out the difference!
Yeast – a little bit (there was just no way to gauge the measurement here so find a bread recipe somewhere – I should also point out that I don’t even think about it anymore, but I am at high altitude – I used to look at the high-altitude directions on packages and wonder what it was like…now I wonder what kind of adjustments I may have to make when I get back!).
Hot water – enough to make the dough. Again, there must be a basic recipe somewhere.
Knead, knead, knead. You don’t have to wait for it to rise. Add more water while kneading to keep it to your desired consistency – that is, pliable. After a lot of kneading, add a little salt.

Make the bread into snowball-sized balls and cover with a little oil (what, you say they come in different sizes? All right, Hostess Sno Ball-sized balls then). I should add that the terra cotta bread-and-couscous-mixing bowls – basically the shape of a tagine bottom but bigger – make a lot of sense; things stay confined within the bowl as you mix and knead. I may have to get one.

Take a ball of dough and flatten it. Fold the top third down, add a little oil, fold the bottom third up, add a little oil, put the filling on top of what you have 2/3 of the way, fold the left third in and pinch the sides so filling doesn’t come out, fold the rest over and pinch so filling doesn’t come out (it will now look like a square), flatten the whole thing again (it will be almost the same size as the original flattened ball but will be square and filled), and put it onto a hot oiled skillet over medium heat, flipping after a few minutes until it is browned on both sides.

I watched Youssef’s mother make a stack of pieces, mesmerized by the assembly-line ease with which she does it, so maybe that’s why it seems simple. It’s really good though, so it’s worth the experimentation it might take. And now I’m tempted to ask for a harira cooking lesson – it’s tasty soup; Joy wanted to learn when she was here, and some of the other volunteers want to learn it, so maybe I should too. I was in Ain Leuh Thursday morning, mailing packages and photographing the women weaving, and then went straight to the cooking lesson; I then had a bit of downtime at home and went back for lftur. Just as I was getting up to leave, another wave of food came – a huge dish of zmeta and a big plate of cookies and another round of tea, to celebrate the new baby. I thought that the seventh day was the only day to celebrate – turns out that visitors come all week and have zmeta and cookies prior to the big celebration (I had forgotten that zmeta is for baby celebrations as well as being a lftur staple).

I had been asked to come to YD on Friday to offer a PCV perspective to homestay orientation – but when I got there, they had already done it! There were some other PCVs there for training, including the person who had been my “name tag” in Philadelphia (we were given someone else’s name so that we would mingle and meet – he arrived very late, so I sat for most of the day without making that connection! He was coming from Chicago, too, which made me glad I had left there several days prior), so I hung out with them for a bit, feeling kind of decadent. I was asked to talk about CBT orientation for SBD on Saturday morning but that too had been covered early! That’s okay; I’m flexible. On the way back from the YD training site, I stopped by Abdou’s – good timing, because it then started to rain, and I waited out the storm while sitting with him. I asked about the Hajj and if he wants to go. He said you have to if you can afford it, but that first his father would go. He estimated that maybe three million people from Morocco (out of a population of 30 million) have gone, and that it costs maybe 30,000 dirhams to go for two weeks.

The new Country Director was in Azrou to check on training, and I invited him to see the Artisana. He took me up on it, and on Saturday morning he and his wife and baby and I went there. I talked about my work and introduced them to the artisans – it was raining, so we never got to the rock-carver/Abdou part of the medina; I had told them we would try to stop by but it was early for both of them to be up anyway. I like him – he seems interested in meeting volunteers and in finding ways to support them. Here’s a picture of us with the baby and one of my artisans – contrast that with the November 26, 2007 entry – a different occasion, obviously – the former Country Director is on the far right. Then I spent almost all day at the Auberge, where I offered a PCV perspective on cultural faux pas and on homestay orientation. The group has been divided into two Tamazight and three Darija groups (so I already know that some of the people I took a shine to will not be in Azrou or in Ain Leuh – but there are enough others that I liked in the Darija groups). I think it was helpful to have me there, though I am sure the PCTs are already eager to meet other PCVs and hear other perspectives – I know I was. I think the conversations I’ve had with them outside the formal sessions have been as or more meaningful to them than the ones in them – they want to know what it’s really like, and they have been asking good questions. I found out that our COS flip charts were not on the walls when they were at the Chellah those first few days – so they didn’t get to see them. PST has been shortened by a week due to budget cuts, so they are not going to get that night-before-swearing-in Thanksgiving dinner that was such a nice experience for us. They’re also not having a mock wedding – I didn’t make the most of ours because it was the day before language tests and I was worried, but it was still one of the more memorable parts of our training. I asked the Administrative Officer about the budget cuts and she said that this year’s group size was not cut (though it is smaller than last year’s) but that next year’s will be (though since this is a ten percent overfill post they may end up with the same number of volunteers – or as she called it, Training Inputs), and PST will be shortened by yet another week – meaning that the Training Design and Evaluation process really has to help streamline things.

One of the CBT groups is learning Tamazight but is in a site where there aren’t really any artisans. So they’re going to come into Azrou twice a week to work with the weaving cooperative at the Artisana. Some of those women speak Tamazight, so it should be a good if somewhat inconvenient experience for them. I prepared Tariq for the fact that the women will probably say I don’t know anything and haven’t done anything for them, and detailed my history with them and the pros and cons of working with them. I suggested the rock-carver as an alternative since he is more motivated, but everyone else is working with a group of women weavers and this way they can compare and contrast their different experiences, so I think it will be okay. I’m going to meet with Tariq and my counterpart and maybe the women in the morning. I also offered to be available for the Ain Leuh group or to stay out of the way! I’ll be going out there tomorrow afternoon to meet with the WPI/Al Akhawayn students – normally I would say when it rains it pours, but I then have to mention that not only was there that thunderstorm on Friday but it also poured last night (after a spectacular lightning show) and tonight!

Today I had volunteers come and go – six in all. It was fun to have them over, but I also felt the need to get some things done for myself, since I’d spent more time with the trainees this week than I’d mentally budgeted for, and while I went out a couple of times, I spent too much time inside. I packed another box – I really hope that wrapping the ceramics in ponge foam will get them home intact! – and went through my clothes to decide what to send home (most of the Moroccan clothes) and what to give away – I’ve given clothes away periodically and am not quite ready to put/give away the summer clothes and definitely not ready to say I won’t wear the winter clothes before I leave, so I’ll go through them again at least one more time. I brought some things because I liked them and knew I wouldn’t mind wearing them often for over two years, and others knowing they would last two years and not come home with me – so far the ones I liked I still like and they may go in my suitcase to be worn until I get settled somewhere and either pull my stuff out of storage or shop for more, and the ones I thought I would give away when I left are all in the giveaway pile! It is going to take time to adjust to anything higher than a mid-calf skirt length again (if I ever do). And are you going to tell me that in the U.S. they don’t regularly wear pants under skirts?

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