Friday in Morocco means one thing: couscous.
The national dish is made in households across Morocco every week and is greatly anticipated. Fridays are traditionally considered a holy day in Morocco and many businesses are closed for the day or afternoon – – or at the very least, a long, long break in the middle of the day for mosque (for the men). Life takes on a slower pace on Fridays. And at the same time there’s a sense of urgency about everything: “We better get to the bank before mosque. It’s Friday!” “We have to hurry to the tire store to get new tires this morning. It’s Friday!” “I couldn’t mail the package to you. It’s Friday.”
Couscous is the best part of Friday. It’s made in restaurants and at home and it seems everyone looks forward to it this week just as much as they did the last week. Moroccans seem to love their couscous even more than the ubiquitous tajine.
When eating couscous with my friend’s family last month, the family commented how long they’d had their couscous serving dish: 12 years. The 15-year old daughter commented that ‘it’s like my little sister!’
The process for couscous is not a small or quick task. Vegetables need to be cut and sliced to the correct sizes, meat (usually lamb) needs to cook until tender, and the couscous itself (semolina: tiny granules of durum wheat) requires a tender process of cooking and stirring – – almost kneading – – until it reaches its perfection. This requires pouring hot water over the grain and “stirring” it with your hands and then putting it back in the pot and repeating the process 15-20 minutes later, 5 or 6 times. It’s a hot, steamy business, this couscous-making.
Finally, the ingredients are all added together in specific order (meat in the middle of the dish itself, couscous all around, then vegetables added on top) and it’s brought to the table where everyone forms golf-ball sized clumps of the hot grain in the right hand and it’s popped into the mouth! Yum!
And the other thing about couscous: it uses a special pot called a ‘couscousery’ which I always say to the tune of “Chim Chiminey” from Mary Poppins. It makes me happy to say it. It’s a special pot system that resembles a steamer and a large pasta pot in my world. I’ve been taught to make this treat but it seems best when I make it in Morocco, with people filling the kitchen with noise and laughter; people I’m growing to love.