Wednesday, May 9, 2007

"Entertaining with Kathi" Food Column ~ May 10, 2007 A Taste of Morocco

This "Entertaining with Kathi" column was originally published on May 10, 2007 in the Northeast Chronicle newspaper in Tallahassee, Florida. If you would like to have Kathi's food and entertaining column in your paper or magazine please contact food writer, Kathi Dameron at

A Taste of Morocco by Kathi Dameron

“You rode an elephant?” I asked, my eyes popping in sheer amazement at the photographs taped to the black pages of the scrapbook.

Colorful images of a North African bazaar, elephant and camel riding, tents in the Sahara Desert and cooking over open fires were just a few of the fascinating images that captured my imagination. That scrapbook chronicling several years of far-flung adventures belonged to my dad's second wife.

During a portion of my junior and senior years in high school, my dad was married to Joyce, a jet setter he met on a barefoot Windjammer cruise.

Arriving home from school during that interlude of time, I would sporadically be greeted by a mŽlange of rich, captivating and unusual aromas.

On those occasions, my dad's vivacious red-headed wife would be in the kitchen with a crisp, perfectly coordinated apron tied around her tiny waist, moving effortlessly to the beat of foreign lyrics that drifted in from the living-room stereo as she stirred a fragrant pot or chopped ingredients on a butcher block near the sink.

“What are you cooking?” I would ask.

She'd respond with something that sounded foreign and exotic, such as, “Bisteeya. It is a very special Moroccan dish. I thought you and your dad would enjoy it.”

“Can I help?” I would ask, pleased by the possibility of learning how to cook something interesting and unusual.

“Come, see what I bought today,” she'd say, grasping my hand and leading me to the newest treasures she'd collected that day. On that day it was tabletop dŽcor, fashions and costume jewelry with a Moroccan flavor.

Joyce was the eponymous prototype for the “shop till you drop” lifestyle. To say she was a shopaholic would be an understatement. But she had the discriminating taste of an aficionado and always remembered me with hip finds during her daily boutique jaunts around the Chicago area. My daddy was so enamored by her in the beginning that he didn't seem to mind that she went on shopping sprees every single day that they were married.

Home life was an audacious eyeful when my dad and Joyce were in town. On that particular night we were in for a taste of Morocco.

A Moroccan dinner party is great fun. But you don't have to go to an expensive boutique and spend boatloads of money or wander through the Kasbah to find your inspiration. Get creative! You might just have everything you need already. Scarves and other fashion accessories from your boudoir can do double duty as decor for this fun party theme.

How To Host A Moroccan Dinner

The cuisine of Morocco is one of the most eclectic cuisines in the world. It draws on a mixture of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, African, Berber and Moorish inspired dishes.The Moroccan menu is one that you can have great fun playing with. Here are a few ideas to get you started. But don't be afraid to launch off with your own creative interpretations. Your guests will love this party!

1. Use a low table and arrange colorful cushions on the floor for seating. No colorful cushions? Just tie some scarves or fabric squares to pillows.

2. Dress the table with a festive brocaded cloth or fashionable scarves and colorful dinnerware. Make a fresh floral bouquet runner. Add small votives. Trim with some beads, tassels or vintage pins.

3. On a nearby table, set up an edible centerpiece, perhaps skewered seafood or fruit kebabs on a pineapple or melon. Include an elegant plated collection of the foods you will be serving - hummus with pita-bread wedges, exotic spiced goat cheese and pistachio purses, mixed greens with peppered and dried fruits drizzled with raspberry champagne vinaigrette, couscous with roasted vegetables, small wedges of bisteeya or a lamb tangine, bite-sized diamonds of almond and honey-roasted pear baklava, orange-coconut macaroons, raspberry-streusel fig bars, fresh fruit - and don't forget to brew up plenty of the quintessential Moroccan beverage, mint tea. Arrange candles all around the room.

4. Provide your guests with thick, color-coordinated towels to cover their laps.

5. Perfume a silver pitcher of warm water with a drop or two of nice aromatic essential oil. Treat your guests to the Moroccan custom of pouring a little water over the fingers of each guest to signal the beginning and end of the meal.

6. Play Moroccan music in the background.

7. Watch the movie "Casablanca" for more inspiration.

(c) 2007 Kathi Dameron
Photo Credit: Brian S. and SXC

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