Tag Archives: markets

Coasting in Essaouira, getting lost in Meknes

I stayed three nights in the port city along the Atlantic Coast, Essaouira (pronounced esa-wera). Alyssa and Andy left for Marrakech (then on to Italy) after two but I wanted to soak up a little more sun in this lovely little town. We spent our time walking the beach, eating kebabs, wandering around the markets and sitting on our hotel’s rooftop terrace soaking in the view. On the third day, after parting with my travel companions (who are greatly missed already!), I finally had grilled calamari to satisfy my seafood craving.

Afterwords I took a final stroll along the beach, where I used the “f” word for the first time while traveling. I felt a little hesistant to use it but as a solo female traveler I felt like I had no other choice. A young man fell into stride with me and after a few minutes, when it was obvious when I wasn’t going to shake him with my usual tactics, I resorted to using the word: “You know,” I said, “my fiancee would be very jealous if he knew I was talking to you.” Doubtful that this blatant lie would actually work, I was astonished to watch him peel off faster than he had approached! It was like I had discovered a secret word that enabled some sort of forcefield around me. I was untouchable. Just to check its efficacy in a new city, I used this “f” word on another young gentleman who took a liking to me today as I wandered through the fruit and spices market in Meknes. As soon as I uttered the word, he nodded and fell back, wishing me a good day. Brilliant.

Yesterday morning I left Essaouira for Marrakech, where I was catching a train up to Meknes (one of the three imperial cities of Morocco, located near the Middle Atlas mountains). The bus broke down halfway to Marrakech so we had to swap buses, making us about an hour late. I still had about an hour before my train departed for Marrakech, so I decided to brave the public transportation to visit the famous Koutoubia Mosque. I had a lot of locals helping me along the way and I made it there and back on the bus with 10 minutes to spare! The one take-away from this quick excursion is that I could use some basic French lessons to get around the next time I’m in a French-speaking country. C’est la vie.

The train ride to Meknes (about 7 hours) went smoothly until a bunch of screaming children got on my car about halfway through the ride. Then about two hours from Meknes I was awakened by two train stewards who were urgently speaking in French to me. When it was obvious I wasn’t understanding their instructions, they said “change, change” over and over. My heart fell because I thought they were telling me that I had to transfer trains at the next stop and it was already very late. Instead, they told me to gather my things and explained that since I was “alone” I was being moved to first class – what luck! The difference between first and second class was quite remarkable…I hope to stumble upon the same fortune on my return trip.

Today I have been exploring Meknes slowly. Every timeĀ  I try to follow Lonely Planet’s walking tour through the souks (markets) and around the medina (the walls of the old city) I get lost. Perhaps it is time to venture out again and continue on my way. At least I have the “f” card in my back pocket now.



Buying seasonal at Eastern Market: Eat your (root) vegetables!

Historic Eastern Market

Last weekend I returned to Eastern Market for the first time in almost two years. Since my previous trips were during the spring and summer growing seasons, I have to admit my surprise (and delight) at the hustle and bustle I discovered there, even in the depths of Michigan’s dreary winter months. After digging around on Eastern Market’s website today, I discovered a few cool facts about my favorite Saturday morning destination in Detroit: Eastern Market was established in 1891 (thus celebrating 120 years of operation this year!) and in 1977, it was designated a historic area by the State of Michigan Historical Commission.

In the excitement of my return to Eastern Market, I was overtaken by the huge selection of variety and failed to ensure all of the produce I purchased was in fact locally grown (oops!). I know that my onions, sweet potatoes, and carrots came from Michigan farms, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my gigantic rutabaga was an out-of-stater. Despite this possible oversight, I stayed clear of any stand offering a bounty of tropical fruits, as these were obvious imports from lands far, far away.

Despite its questionable origin, my most prized possession upon leaving Eastern Market that morning was my mysterious rutabaga, for I had never before tasted this root vegetable, let alone prepare one. My interest in cooking and eating rutabaga stems from The Real Time Farms Blog post offering cooking ideas for this veggie. Curiosity got the best of me and I tried two of the three suggested recipes-mashed and roasted. A few days later, with half a rutabaga still hanging out in the fridge, I decided to get creative and make some fries. I thinly sliced the remaining rutabaga, along with a sweet potato, mixed them up, and divided them into two groups. I coated each group with olive oil, then tossed the first group in a mixture of salt, pepper, and curry powder. The second group got a coating of pre-mixed bread crumbs. For lack of a deep fryer (and a desire for a healthier fry) I baked the fries in the oven at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until they were crispy and cooked through.

Here’s a shot of my rutabaga and sweet potato fries:

Baked sweet potato and rutabaga fries (curry fries on left, bread crumb coated fries on right)

The results? In general, the sweet potato fries tasted better and had a nicer texture than the rutabaga fries, which weren’t soft enough on the inside for my liking. I thoroughly enjoyed the curry fries but didn’t care much for the bread crumb ones. I also experimented with sour cream and barbecue as dipping sauces, which definitely added some flavor. I think slicing the rutabagas a little thinner next time and baking them slightly longer than the sweet potato fries would yield better results. The curry sweet potato fries are a definite win and I’ll be making them again soon.

Thailand Tribute #10: Boba

Boba and all its flavors: A perfect treat in hot, humid weather

Boba, bubble tea, and khai mook are just a few of the many names for this incredible drink. Although it is quite popular in the States, I didn’t experience my first boba until I was in Thailand, and it has since played an integral part in the happiness of my life here. I’m actually feeling a bit apprehensive about returning to the Midwest and it’s utter lack of boba-ness. In Thai we call it khai mook (which means “pearl”) because that’s what the tapioca balls included in the drink are called. Popular flavors range from teas and coffee (freshly brewed) to fruits and vegetables (in powder form) which are blended with ice, non-dairy creamer and of course, condensed milk. My favorites include Thai iced tea, coffee and taro. Durian was a pretty big no and I have yet to try the corn and cantaloupe, which both seem intriguing.

Above is a picture of a typical khai mook stand in our village. The flavors are stacked high in these cylindrical containers and until I started reading Thai, it was a bit of a guessing game to find the right one. Luckily taro is usually the only purple color! Khai mook has been our go-to treat for relief from the sweltering heat and humidity, a reward for jobs well done, as well as consolation after rough days at school. I will certainly miss this popular and utterly delicious drink.

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