The Table of My Ancestors: Week 7 (North Africa – Morocco)

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To read the post that started it all, click here!

Morocco has always been on my list of countries I’d love to visit, so it was a lot of fun learning more about it through cuisine this week! When I think of Moroccan food, the first thing that comes to mind is tajin (or tagine). Tajin is a rich stew consisting of meat, fish, or poultry, often including vegetables or fruit, such as apricots. The stew is cooked in a clay or ceramic pot (also called a tajin) that dates back to the 9th century.

I chose to do a beef tajin, which consisted of onion, stew meat, garlic, cinnamon sticks, and a variety of spices like nutmeg, salt and pepper, and ras el hanout. The stew cooks on the stove for several hours; after two, some of the liquid is removed from the tajin and reserved for later use. Once cooked, it is topped with apricots that are in a simple syrup made from honey, cinnamon, and the liquid from the tajin; fried almonds can also be used, and served over rice, couscous, or with bread. The whole dish is a little sweet, a little spicy, and is one I will definitely be making again — we loved it!

For dessert, I wanted to make a meskouta, a light and fluffy cake that can be flavored with almost anything (oranges, almond and honey, coconut, etc.). My daughter wanted lemon, so I set out juicing lemons, saving the zest, making the glaze, etc. Everything was going well until it was time to turn my meskouta out from the Bundt pan. Despite having liberally greased and floured the pan, a huge chunk of it got stuck and the whole thing ripped as I removed it.

I was devastated. Over a cake.
And at this point, I was tired of being in the kitchen, so I decided just to throw some of the glaze on it and be done.
I could have made a new cake. I really wanted one that was pretty, picture-perfect, even, that I could dust with some powdered sugar and present to my daughter.

But it fell apart.

My husband tried to console me by encouraging me to look for the lesson in my meskouta experiment, that sometimes life doesn’t go according to our plans and when it gives us lemons (or in this cake, broken lemon cake) we need to make lemonade.
He wasn’t wrong. What he was saying was true.

But what was also true is that I was disappointed because I had high expectations and had wanted to give my daughter a cake that just…well, looked better.

Which reminded me of perhaps what the real lesson was all along, that sometimes, two things can be true at the same time. I don’t need to discard one truth in order to replace it with another. I can hold multiple realities simultaneously while recognizing they don’t cancel one another out. In a world full of such binary thinking, where everyone feels like they have to pick a side because it’s this vs. that, this mindset presents truly a new way forward: a way full of both/and understanding instead of either/or arguments.

Life doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to, and I was disappointed by the cake. Both are true.

The good news is that the meskouta was actually delicious, and neither of my children said anything at all about how it looked.

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