What better way to end a week than eat with loved ones, right? My boy texted last week raving about this new eats in Melbourne, so we decided to head up there and find out for ourselves.
It also got me thinking about Morocco itself, and I dug out the photo album with our photos, because we've lost the negatives and don't have digital copies. I loved this trip, and I think it was because I'd been living in England for so long that I was missing big views and warm sunlight and I didn't even really know it. I spent a lot of time crying with a kinda joy, and an anticipatory loss, knowing that we might not get back there for a while. It felt like a homecoming of sorts, as if I had been there in dreams, or perhaps just imaginatively connected to it through literature, film, and the stories I had read about Northern Africa. I felt immediately comfortable there, wanting to immerse myself in the market place, lose myself in colour and sound.
How beautiful it was there. We drove over the Atlas Mountains from Marrakesh on Christmas Day, watching the snow settle on the mountains and the big ravines with rusting vehicles nestled in the earth, victims of sliding off the side due to bad driving or bad luck, who knew. In Ouarazozate we hired a driver to take us to the Sahara - his name was Iache, and we had such a connection between us as we communicated in pigeon French, Arab, English and drawings on scraps of paper torn from a notebook. There was much laughter, and a kind of physical humour we observed amongst the Maroccans that tickled me a lot. I taught him the silly trick of pointing to sometimes jumper as if there was a stain there, and when they looked down, the tap to the nose. In the evening we heard raucous laughter from the tents as he replicated the trick for the big Tuarag men of the desert. If you go to Morroco and someone does it to you thatll be my fault. He was a man of the desert and had never seen snow, until he was to drive back over the mountains with us a week or so later, his first time over the Atlas to visit an uncle in Marrakech.
Seeing the sun set over desert sands was extraordinary, gentle hills alit in a kind of rose gold hue. I've seen desert stars in my time, away from the ground lights of cities, but this was something else. The nights spent under the hessian of Bedouin tents on blankets and sheepskin with the tiny diamonds of light moving across the sky were something else. Dinners were tagines onto couscous, big ladles of stock, dates and chickpeas.
I still want to go back to Morocco one day and get lost in desert sands, souks and grand kasbahs. In one we found a library of ancient Islamic astrological texts, and another watched clay pots formed for market. The lines of donkeys carrying goods along the roads, the date palms, the ancient mud buildings, the goats and rugs and painted plates and big, big sky, camels and mountains, all went by to the sound of Tinariwen or Jil Jilala thumping from taxi cassette tape decks.
Without Morocco, I have to settle for the next best thing - Moroccon food!
In Fitzroy, Melbourne, there's a new eatery called 'Morrocan Soup Bar' and it's pretty fabulous. Whilst I saw neither soup or a bar, it definitely was Morrocan food! The restaurant doesn't take bookings, so we had to be there BEFORE it opened, but got a table for the 5 of us for the 6 o'clock sitting, whereupon we were immediately served little glass cups of green tea, instantly reminding us of those days on our travels being served this tea endlessly and being constantly a-jitter with green tea and sugar!
There's no menu - you simply order the meal and specify any dietary requirements - J. had rung the day before for the no garlic and onion option and they also catered for my son's girlfriend's gluten allergies without a problem. The entree was little bowls to share of all sorts of goodies from halloumi to chickpeas, eggplant and labneh and was absolutely delicious. The mains were also amazing - a tomato rice, a kind of ratatouille or Moroccan tomato vegetable stew (did I mention it was all vegetarian?), a casserole with chickpeas and yoghurt, and other deliciousness. J's onion free option included a kind of slaw and a bulghur wheat dish and was equally delicious.
Desert was a selection of these yummy date balls, baklava, cookies, and a few other delicacies, served with syrupy rich coffee that we presumed had cardoman, orange water and cinnamon in it (we had a bit of a google as we were so delighted with it!
I had no idea, but apparently this place has been a Melbourne Institution for 17 years and even has a recipe book! which I might buy. We also love their manifesto, which was right up our alley (as was the sign at the counter which said: NOT DEALING IN TRUMP'S CURRENCY OF HATE - absolutely! Given the restaurant wants to 'brings together a unique approach to the taste sensations of Morocco with a diversity of cultural experiences, in an environment of generosity and abundance', Trump's currency of hate does absolutely not align with their vision.