The maze like environmant of the souk…So confusing…Food around the world…

Yesterday, this was my meal at Le Jardin;  fillet of Dover sole with a spinach sauce made with a flour-less cream reduction sauce. In the center, is an array of cooked vegetables, including carrots, zucchini and eggplant. The chef prepared this meal for me after the server showed the him the restriction list on my phone. It was fabulous. Now, I can’t wait to have this again! See how tempting it is to return to favorite restaurant when I can order a dish as amazing as this?

Firstly, again thanks for the many well wishers, for my improving health.  Now with only one more day on Cipro, I am feeling completely well, having decided to continue and do the full five day regime.  All symptoms have subsided and I’m back to my energized self, chomping at the bit to get out and explore.

Tom ordered the same dish he’d had at Le Jardin the last time we visited, fearful he wouldn’t like other options. Next time, he’ll try a different dish.

Yesterday, we did exactly that!  Explore. On Friday, the holy day for those of the Muslim faith, many of the shops are closed in the souk. As a result, the narrow roads and passageways of the souk are relatively free of foot traffic. Since we aren’t interested in shopping, this is an ideal time for us to get around and explore the area and search for new restaurants to try.

During the long walk, as we searched for Le Jardin we discovered this interesting door in the Jemaa el Fna in the souk..

Here’s the dilemma. We’ve decided we can no longer dine at most Moroccan food restaurants. Having decided I will no longer eat raw vegetables after this dreadful illness there are few foods that I can eat in a Moroccan restaurants with any assurance that there will be none of the ingredients that I can’t have. Many dishes have flour, sugar, grains, fruit and starches, all which I must avoid.

Continuing on through the narrow roads, we looked for any familiar landmarks that would assist us in our search for Le Jardin.

A few days ago, Tom suggested I write about food too much. I agree that it is a frequent topic of conversation.  But, let’s face it, people usually travel for a few reasons other than to “get away from it all.” They travel for the shopping, the sights and for the food and wine. 

We thought we were close when a few weeks ago, we’d spotted these same two kittens playing at perhaps the same spot.

 

Many of the homeless cats hang out in pairs.

When travelers board a long flight, one of their first questions asked is, “Do we get a meal?” One of the major reasons travelers enjoy cruising is for the food, the “all you can eat” aspect, with many courses with an endless array of desserts. When travelers arrive at a new location, they immediately get to work to find out where to eat using the Internet, the concierge or by inquiring to other travelers.

From time to time we’ll see what appears to be a traditional home furnishings shop. 

We live in a “food” orientated society. Our holidays and celebrations consist of big meals with many desserts.  Sporting events appeal to many for the food and drinks that seem to go along the frenzy. A trip to a movie theatre results in a desire for popcorn, candy and drinks. 

Ever go to Las Vegas and not discuss a plan as to where to have the biggest and best buffets, maybe “comped” if one is a serious gambler, or to immediately return to a favorite haunt for a special dish?  Its our nature.

If we go back to the caveman/cavewomen, most likely the first thing they thought about upon wakening, is where and how they’ll get their next meal. In the animal world, we observed both on safari and in living in Marloth Park, that animals lives revolve around the constant hunt or forage for food.

What an interesting door!

Its in our DNA whether its out of the need to feed our bodies or for sheer pleasure. We can’t help but think and talk of our desires for food in various the forms in which we’ve become familiar. A huge part of traveling is the excitement of seeking the new food experiences, the new flavors.

Here we are in Morocco, dealing with my major food restrictions (which I don’t resent at all) and Tom’s picky taste buds, in one  of the “foodie” capitals in the world! Food is a major point of discussion in our lives perhaps in a slightly different manner than for most travelers.

A few decisions have been determined by my recent illness coupled with Tom’s taste buds:
1.  No more dining in Moroccan restaurants
2.  All dining is to be in French, Italian or other suitable international restaurants
3.  When dining in, Madame Zahra will make all meals without the traditional Moroccan spices which at this point, neither of us cares to eat.

Finally, we spotted the green sign at the top of this photo, assuring us at long last, that we were heading in the right direction.

Our lifelong taste preferences can be changed for a few days or even a few weeks. But, none of us, prefer to eat the strong flavors of another culture’s food for months. For example, I love Szechuan Chinese food. Could I eat it everyday for over two months? No. Could one eat foods with Italian spices everyday unless  you were Italian, used to eating those flavors at each meal? No.

Ingrained in all of us, are the tastes most familiar in our lives and from our upbringing. Deviating for a period of time is acceptable but, not so much for the long term.  When Madame Zahra made our meal on Thursday without spices other than salt and pepper, we both moaned in appreciation not only for her fine cooking but for the familiarity of the simple flavors.

With French spoken in Morocco by many of its citizens and the fair number of French restaurants, we’ll have no difficulty finding French restaurants. The bigger problem is, “finding” those in the souk, many of which appear to be tucked away.

The fresh organic produce offered for sale at Le Jardin.

Yesterday, we decided to do a “repeat” and go back to Le Jardin, a French restaurant offering a combination of Moroccan and French influenced options. Having dined there recently, greatly enjoying the food and the ambiance, we decided to return. 

The first time we’d dined at Le Jardin, we stumbled across it during one of our many walks through the maze-like souks. We thought searching and finding it on one of the many online map programs would make returning a breeze. We encountered a few problems. 

They didn’t appear in any of the map programs. The map on their website was confusing and when I tried to call them to email directions, there was no answer. When I tried sending an email to their posted address, it was returned. We were on our own.

Today, we’ll return to the same general area to dine at this French restaurant we stumbled across when looking for Le Jardin.

Tom has the best sense of direction of anyone I’ve ever known. When we left there weeks ago, he had no trouble finding our way back to our home. Time having passed with many outings in the souks, he wasn’t 100% certain as to the course to take.

Needless to say, we wandered around the souks for 45 minutes until we found Le Jardin. We’ve discovered it makes no sense to ask shop workers for directions.  Invariably, the salesperson drags us inside their shop or to another shop, hoping we’ll make purchases.  We’ve learned that we must figure it out on our own. I suppose the shop workers have grown tired of giving directions to confused tourists.

Yesterday, we had another excellent meal while enjoying the birds and turtles roaming freely in the courtyard.  Hence, a few of today’s photos.

Here is one of the two resident turtles at Le Jardin. The staff carefully maneuvers past them when serving guests. It was hard to believe how fast these turtles move. They moved so quickly that I had a hard time taking the photo.  he turtles are on a constant “crumb patrol” mission.

Today, we’ll venture out again to a French restaurant we found along the way yesterday. Again, the souk will be packed with tourists especially as Spring Break becomes relevant in many parts of the world. However, we’ve yet had to wait for a table at any dining establishment.

At Le Jardin we were given two larger maps that hopefully will assist us in the future. The hostess, speaking excellent English, explained that tourists have trouble finding their restaurant which is tucked away at an unexpected location.

Madame Zahra made us this Moroccan spice-free meal which wasn’t bland at all with her use of garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. From left to right, starting at the bread for Tom; sautéed carrots,  chips (fries) for Tom, egg battered sautéed cauliflower (my favorite), sautéed fresh green beans and fried mashed potato puffs for Tom. In the center is the rooftop grilled chicken with both white and dark meat which works well for us; Tom likes the white meat while I prefer the dark. As always, there is more food than we can eat. But, homemade Moroccan cooking consists of many items. 

In two days, on Monday, we’ll go out on a day of sightseeing which we both anticipate with enthusiasm, ending the day at a new-to-us, upscale French restaurant. See… even sightseeing is laced with concerns about FOOD.