Experiencing the nomadic way of life in Morocco

The Perennial Plate could give you wanderlust really quickly, at least if you're curious about food. The weekly, online documentary series follows two people who travel the world learning -- and filming -- how people really eat in their home countries.

The duo, chef Daniel Klein and camerawoman Mirra Fine, find their way into home kitchens, onto farms and fishing boats. And they have a goal: 12 countries, in-depth, in 18 months. They visited Morocco where they dined with a family of nomads and toured an oyster farm.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: You two are always heading for places that tourists never find. I understand the most recent trip was to Morocco.  

Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine
Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine

Mirra Fine: Morocco was a really amazing place to visit. It was the first place where having a camera actually made it more difficult for us to be there. Normally when we go to each country, having a camera opens doors for us. We can go to different places, see behind the scenes …

Daniel Klein: Ask awkward questions.

MF: … And people openly talk to us. In Morocco people were very turned off by the camera. Many people didn't want their face filmed at all -- we had to film only hands. Many people just didn't want the camera at all, so when they saw us with the camera they turned away.

LRK: But you did have, from what I understand, a really rare experience. You were with a group of nomads in a rather remote area.

MF: Yes. We hiked about 3 hours up the Todgha Gorge and were able to spend a night with a family of nomads in their camp, which is essentially their tent where they've lived for 12 years. They built caves in the mountain. We got to sleep in one of the caves, which was amazing.

When we got up there, it was strikingly beautiful, this simple and austere way of life. Then a windstorm happened. We're up there and the wind starts blowing, and we have camera gear with us, which is pretty nerve-wracking. Pretty much the worst thing you can do to a camera is expose it to a windstorm. Your eyes get full of dust. You see these 4-year-old kids just endure it and still be playing.

We got to try a little bit of the food that they make. They herd goats, and we met with the herders, their daughter and their son.

MF: It was so cool because at sunset all of a sudden, hundreds of goats just came over the horizon in this beautiful scene.

DK: Then the daughter came and milked the goats. They took the goat milk and they put it in the skin of a goat and proceeded to shake it for half an hour or something like that. Not fast, just a little bit more casual than I would have thought. They untied the neck of the goat skin and out plopped -- "plop" is the word because they had a little ball and it just fell. It was this fresh goat's milk butter.

Milking goats in Morocco
Milking goats in Morocco (The Perennial Plate)

LRK: What did it taste like?

MF: It was fresh. It was a little bit -- not acidic, but there was something to it.

LRK: Gaminess perhaps? I mean that in an interesting way like goat's cheese.

MF: Maybe like lemony or there was something else that was very citrusy to it.

DK: We tried it twice. One way that they do it is they let it sit overnight and throughout the day, so it develops a bit of a fermented character to it. It gets that tangy sweetness. After taking the butter out, then they pour the fermented milk, which is like kefir or buttermilk, but fermented buttermilk. They poured us a cup of that. I have to say, we get to eat a number of strange things, but drinking yogurt out of a goat's skin we were a little worried. The taste is sour and it has little chunks of butter still left in it, so it's this creamy, sweet, sour. It's really delicious.

MF: You want more.

LRK: So here you are up in the mountains in a remote area with a family of nomads, but then I understand you ended up at the sea at an oyster farm. That's a pretty extreme contrast.

MF: We drove all the way around Morocco. We left Casablanca and we drove -- I think like 2 hours -- and all of a sudden we passed this hill. You look out and there's this amazing, beautiful lagoon. We pulled up to this water, and then we saw that there were lots of oyster beds.

Oysters in Morocco
Oysters in Oualidia, Morocco (The Perennial Plate)

LRK: You never think of oyster farming in Morocco.

MF: You don't think of that, but Oualidia, which is the city where we went, is actually known for farming oysters. They've been doing it since I think the 1950s.

DK: The French have been in Morocco for a long time. The French like their oysters, so some smart Frenchman decided, "Hey, we should grow oysters in Morocco." They happened to be in this location that worked perfectly for raising oysters. The lagoon empties out and fills back with the tide. It exposes the beds to the sun and you can rotate them easily. Then the water comes back in and flushes it out.

LRK: They wait until the tide goes out and that's when they harvest the oysters?

MF: Yes.

LRK: The people who raise them, are they cooking them or are the oysters generally going solely to the foreigners who come?

MF: They very often go to the foreigners who come.

DK: We went to this amazing fish market in Casablanca and we saw lots of Moroccan families buying oysters and eating them. I think it was designed for the French, but we did see plenty of Moroccan people indulging in them.

It's quite interesting because the family who runs the oyster farm that we visited had their oyster operation -- next to it was a restaurant. But they did not run the restaurant because the restaurant served alcohol and that was against their religion. We were able to have a glass of wine and eat our oysters.

Moments in Morocco from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

From This Episode: 
Old Vines
November 1st, 2013

Featured recipe

Top Recipes

Featured recipe