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by Fred McMillin
Monday in Morocco
I phoned the Restaurant Rissani in Casablanca to confirm that my wife and I would be there Tuesday morning at 9 A.M. We were to learn and photograph the preparation of Harira (hu-ree-ruh). Harira is the steaming brew used by Moroccan Moslems at sundown to break their daily fast during the holy lunar month of Ramadan. Madame Benthammadi Fatna would be our instructor.
Tuesday in the Kitchen
Since the chef and the McMillins had no common language, I had arranged with the government Tourist Bureau to furnish an interpreter. I phoned them to confirm and they gave me the bad news that none would be available! So, we charged ahead, resigned to a hard morning of communicating by smiles and pantomime.
Adorned with tribal tattoos from forehead to ankle, Madame Fatna was a photographer's dream. So as she and my wife got down to business, I quickly set up my two still cameras, one movie camera and the movie lights. It created enough of a stir that the manager (left in the photo) joined us to watch the procedure. Fortunately, he didn't say a word, so provided no distraction. The saffron, chick-peas, cubes of loin of beef coriander leaves, lentils, etc. cascaded into the massive cauldron. After an exhausting 90 minutes of trying to get the fine points by gesture and shrugs, they were through. I packed the cameras as the manager watched, and thanked him for arranging the demonstration. He replied in perfect English, "Mr. McMillin, I'm not the manager. I'm the interpreter sent by the Tourist Bureau!!"
Harira and Wine
Recovering from the shock out in the dining room, we were offered a local red wine to enjoy with the soup, which is very suitable for an American winter day. The wine had an earthy core, reminding me of a good Mourvedre. So that's our wine of the day...
1996 Concannon Mourvedre, Contra Costa County, $17
This page created February 2000