Spanish Moss

So, I haven’t been able to play guitar for months and months because of tendonitis. Recently my hand and wrist have been feeling touchy but not really painful. Guitar has been my peace of mind for so long that I’ve been going crazy without having that constant outlet for creativity. Here’s a song that I wrote in Morocco and have wanted to record just in case I won’t be able to play for another really long time. Here are the lyrics:

I wish was a gambling man down in New Orleans

on a riverboat in 1865

I’d sneak up to your cabin every night and we’d make love

to the sounds of the Mississippi night

I’d deck you out in silk dresses and ribbons for your curls

and we’d promenade by Spanish moss lined trees

And I’d swear to you that I would never talk to other girls

if you promised that you’d be true to me

I wish I was a jewel thief

I’d steal from kings and lords and lay treasures at your feet

and watch your necklace sparkle as you breathe

and when they finally came for me ya you would tell them lies

your ruby cheeks aglow with thoughts of me

and we’d sail off under diamond skies ya go just where we please

leave a trail of gold dust on the sea

The river is wide so wide and the ocean is raging and wild

but Oh, ya it’s good to be alive and I guess that it don’t

to be in love

I wish I was a Pharaoh 4,000 years ago

I’d surely make you queen of all the land

As goddess they would worship you

but none as much as me you know

I’d lay you down in soft white Nile sand

I wish I was a gambling man down in New Orleans

but I’m just a working boy who has dreams…


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Spanish Moss

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December 28, 2011 · 10:25 pm

…measure with your heart

One thing that has been a long standing tradition in the Stewart family is that everyone helps out in the kitchen. We all love to cook and bake. The kitchen is definitely not reserved for my mom and sisters.

While it’s possible to find men working alongside women in the kitchen here in Morocco, it is not as usual in rural places. When my host sister asked me if I would teach her how to make pizza, I was excited. I have done a few cooking classes at the local women’s association and I’ve found the experience to be exciting and sometimes a little stressful! Imagine, if you will, being surrounded by a gaggle of Berber women who are  watching you measure out flour very carefully and concurrently teasing you mercilessly about not being married: “But Fatima, I’m still so young — dang it, I completely forgot the salt…”

I have never made pizza, but just as all Americans are assumed to be brilliant basketball players, they are also expected to know how to make a delicious pizza! I looked up an easy looking recipe online and set a date to come over to my host family’s house.

Miriam, my host sister, was amused by my American measuring cups. I told her that in America we use them all the time for cooking. Here in Morocco, cooking is a lot more of an intuitive process. Add flour until you feel that the consistency is right. Freestyle the spices. Measure with your heart. In America we pack the measuring cup to the brim and use a knife to level off the overflowing ingredients so that we are positive that we are using exactly 8oz. of whatever we are measuring. I was too nervous on my first pizza attempt to eyeball the yeast and so I put up with getting made fun of for being so serious about my scientific measurments. As we traded cooking styles and tips the pizza came together. As the dough rose, I told Miriam how important garlic was to the pizza sauce. 3ziz 3leihum f Italia! (It’s very cherished by them in Italy!)

When the time came to roll out the dough, Miriam took over. She patiently watched as I struggled to shape the dough into somewhat of a pizza shape before it got stuck and tore. After sitting through two of my performances, she gently motioned me aside, expertly rolled out the sticky dough and put it into the round iron pan. We added our sauce and some black olives, and it looked good enough to eat!


I didn't want to put pictures with Miriam's face showing because people are sensitive about being on the internet. So you get me, not quite as easy on the eyes...

It was hard waiting for the pizza to cook, but as it did Miriam and I talked and joked. I kept opening the oven to make sure that all of our hard work didn’t end up a crispy disaster. Slowly, much too slowly, a delicious scent began to waft around the little mud hut where we were cooking. Miriam kept telling me not to open the oven door because I was letting the heat out. I knew this to be true, but couldn’t help myself. When the pizza came out it was perfect. We took it inside and showed my host mother who, drying her hands on a towel, said it was pretty zween (beautiful). Damn straight. The only pizza I make is a Zween pizza.

Before we ate, I ran out and bought some coke. “You can’t eat pizza without coke”, I told them.

So I got to share my enjoyment of cooking and eating pizza with my host family. The women, anyways. My host brother watched tv the whole time 🙂


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Summer Again

I am anticipating everything whithering and dying in the mammoth ravaging heat. There are volunteers who say they like the heat. Scary stuff.

The last week or so has been incredibly tiring for a lot of reasons–not the least of which being the onset of the warm weather. Rewind a week. Last Sunday found me anxiously looking out my back door and pondering the corn kernel-sized hailstones bouncing around my back yard. Why now? I hadn’t seen rain for months, and the cold was an unsettling development.

Two Sundays before the hailstorm I was looking over a moonlit graveyard from high atop a hill in the mid-sized Middle Atlas town of Midelt. I had a small bag of Sweet Basil seeds poking out of my front pocket. Jeff, the volunteer in Midelt, was opposite me, picking on his classical guitar tuned up like a banjo and rolling his fingers up and down the strings as we sang out at the graves. I was passing through town and a jam session was necessary. It was a good night of music and mint tea. I left with the gift of a tiny handful of seeds.

I planted those seeds  when I got home thinking that there was no way that the weather would turn cold again. May in the Sahara don’t you know…

So, when the sky cracked open, it was with annoyance that I felt the otherwise refreshing blasts of air on my face and otherwise beautifully cool raindrops on my feet. I thought, “Why, God? Why now?”  The answer was obvious–I had decided to plant my Basil.

I covered the little blue plastic pail with the lid of an old tagine. When the storm passed I opened it up and was discouraged to see the sogginess inside. Must have been rough for those seeds. I was sad and then went inside.

Imagine my surprise when I walked out a few mornings ago and saw a tiny little forest of cotyledons greeting the world from their little blue bathroom pail 🙂 I was very happy. Basil seedlings have a lot of personality as you will see, and I like their looks.

Basil is a charming and versatile plant. I first fell in love with a basil plant in Cairo and subsequently let it die for lack of attention. But while it lived, I grew to really appreciate it’s scent and clusters of tiny white flowers. When I came to Morocco, our acquaintance was renewed when I discovered that it is used as a tea herb in the North of the country. They don’t use it like that in the south, but I sure plan to! I hope I’ll have plenty of basil for my tea and would really love to make some pesto in the fall!

Quarreling lovers

The Loner

Mountain Folk

The three kings

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My intention was not to bastardize the crepe.

I did end up using a filling that crepe purists might cringe at a little. But that is neither here nor there.

This post is dedicated to Fred, who introduced me to the world of crepes and to Allison, who lived in that world for quite some time and would now like the crepe to be part of her new one.

I chose the Beatles’s Abby Road album as my accompaniment for the culinary excursion. Very key. It gave the crepes a euphoric taste.






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Time for another On The Spot in Tinejdad.

In this installment it is important that some vocabulary is pre-taught to the listeners.  Actually only one word. This word is “Ponj”. It is not pronounced “Poonj”. A ponj is a sort of Moroccan couch or mattress. They can be very thick and hefty, weighing forty or fifty pounds or could be a light, simple, foam mattress.

I took the liberty of taking a picture with one of the light ponjes.

So, now that we’re clear on what a ponj is and how to pronounce the word…

Some other things discussed:

Would Tim like to spend a night in a cave with me?

What Tim is planning for his Halloween costume. (Please don’t steal his idea!)

And why this may be the LAST On The Spot, ever.


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On the Spot in Tinejdad.

So, I decided it was time for another interview. Here it is. Totally spontaneous. Uncut. Awkward. Hopefully uplifting and informative. I wanted it to have a name, because I was thinking of doing a series of these interviews. I called it “On the Spot.”

Some of the topics covered.

Does using toilet paper make you an elitist?

How I feel about Anna. (I was really put on the spot!)

Does Tim use his right or his left hand to wipe?

I like to think that in life, we are constantly learning from our experiences. In this instance, I learned that probably, when conducting an interview, it is better to be prepared than spontaneous.


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