Wednesday, April 9, 2014


I am a a terrible cook.  It's one of those truisms I just can't deny.  I've burned rice more times than I can count, I've baked brownies so repulsive they refused to come out of the pan, and my homemade meals frequently inspire last minute calls for outsourced pizza.

Despite all of this, I continue to believe in miracles.  

That is why, while visiting Morocco for the first time, I made it a point of taking a two-day cooking class in Marrakech.  

As a vegetarian, I figured it would be worth my while to master a flavorful couscous or learn how to produce an edible tagine.

Admittedly, the course I took was not particularly challenging. Most participants seemed happy to treat the program as a joyful way to socialize and nibble on delicacies while learning a bit about local recipes. 

Because the class began with a two-hour shopping excursion through the souks, it offered tourists a fantastic way to become familiar with vendors and traditions, but it probably was not a serious chef's cup of mint tea.

In fact, two of my classmates complained at the end one session that all they had learned was "how to slice vegetables".  

For me, this was higher level stuff.  I'm pretty sure there are rules about shapes and sizes of certain slices, but I've never understood how to meet the standards.

I've always been most intimidated by tomatoes.  Whenever I try to dice one, it turns into a mushy mess.  

The woman in the following photo taught me how to properly slice lovely, red chunks onto my carving board.  She did this while speaking Arabic and only once rolling her eyes in frustration.  

She and her colleagues also led us through the ritual of adding all-important spices to each dish.  It was this process that gave me an insight into the culture.  Moroccan's combine intense heat with tangy twists: the pop of ginger in one bite is matched by sweet sprinkles of star anise and cinnamon in another.

At the end of each day, we had collectively created a four-course meal that celebrated all of the flavors of Morrocco.  Through the development of a series of salads, hearty tagines, lightly seasoned fish, and delicate desserts - even the most bumbling among us felt like true chefs.
On my second day (and with a lot of oversight) I managed to make a really tasty vegetarian couscous. Nothing was burned, no one made weird faces when they bit into it, and there was no need to order take-out.
Even my teachers had reason to celebrate!

If you are an aspiring chef, or even someone with knife skills and confidence in the kitchen, this just may be the experience you are looking for.  You can sign up for a class at

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