Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wild and wacky workshop week

Last Tuesday volunteers started trickling into my site for a cheese-making workshop. By Wednesday morning we had nine of us crammed into my tiny kitchen hovering over pots of heating milk. We ended up making five cheeses in all, including: Feta, Yoghurt and yoghurt cheese, Neufchatel/Farmers cheese, Gouda and Ricotta. I figured out a way to get all the necessary ingredients and equipment in Morocco, but still no success with Mozzarella. So we picked Mozzarella up at the store—a trip that delighted some volunteers since it included a horse carriage ride to the big grocery store, both of which most volunteers don’t have in their sites.

It was a very cheesy couple of days and we enjoyed Greek salad (with the Feta), cheese and crackers, Ricotta cream dessert, and several different pizzas topped in various cheesy ways. I felt it was a success over all, the cheeses came out great and I managed to sleep nine people in my modest home. I did want to included more Moroccans in this workshop, but realized what worked best for volunteers—scheduling during the slow Ramadan period—was the opposite for Moroccans busy preparing for lftor and maybe not the best to have around a mostly non-fasting American group. My neighbor did attend when she could catch a break from her household chores, but I will definitely have to repeat this again at another time.

On Friday our entire group moved down to Jon and Emily’s site for papermaking. There was a collective stretch as they realized the Lindbergs have considerably more space than I do. We got started right away breaking down egg crates, milk cartons, and other cardboard/paper trash. After turning it all into pulp we each got to try our hand at pulling paper on their roof while keeping an eye on the ominous sky overhead. The equipment needed for papermaking is a little more involved than cheese-making, but I would like to gather the necessary materials together to start my own paper-making fun.

Saturday we made a hike down to the source, the spring from which Oulmes water is bottled, in between rain showers and making paper. It is a good hike down a mountain and back up, but I made it all the way this time! Down at the bottom a friendly man showed us around the pumping site. They have a healthy population of cats breeding down there. I didn’t drink the water, but I did get to stick my hand in the warm baths set aside for hikers interested in the healing properties of mineral water. The spring pumps out perfect bathwater.

The weather has been crazy lately. It went from being so hot that sweat was a constant companion to down right chilly in a week. I am under two warm blankets as we speak. What caused this change was a pattern of rain showers, started by a big old-fashioned thunderstorm. Did I want rain? Yes, considering summer was basically devoid of it. Did I want cool? Yes, I’m tired of sweating. Do I want winter? Not until my toenails heal so they can get frostbitten again on a clean slate.

The cooler weather did inspire a fall dinner on Saturday. We roasted a stuffed chicken, made bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, and green beans. It was a mini-thanksgiving. We eat pretty well when we get together around here, I must say. I’ve also found my ultimate cooking partner, Kristen. I’m more of a baker, so I prefer to take care of anything that involves flour, and she is an excellent cook. We’re a dangerous combination.

Sunday I stayed behind as the others filed out and got back to their lives. The paper we made was dried and ironed and I was determined to make a sketchbook with it. I learned a bookbinding technique from Emily, which I made a cover for back in my site. I’ll never buy a sketchbook again!

To wrap up this “summary of my week” post, the end of Ramadan is in sight. All during the workshops last week I had stopped fasting. Fasting is much more fun when you are breaking your fast with other Moroccans. I have gone back to it though, and it wasn’t so hard of a transition between the two. I’m actually considering fasting once in a while, like once a month. It really makes you slow down and think about food in a new way. I don’t need to constantly obsess about filling my stomach. It is important to enjoy what you are eating, and pick good foods both in taste and nutritional content. Many people go without food for much longer stretches of time, and many not by choice. It is also about fighting instant gratification, which I feel is a big problem in contemporary America. Of course, in my head I know these things already, but fasting makes them present.


Wander Full said...

This sounds like so much fun! I love that you are having workshops and have found ways to bring the teaching artist self into your life in Morroco. p.s. just read a travelogue and the author described morroco as "the color spectrum".

Loda said...

oh my Lisa!!! It sounds like you are having sooo much fun!!! I can't believe you actually MADE cheeses as complex as Gouda. Wow, I've never made any cheese before, so I really have nothing to base it on, but it sounds complex. You rock, Lis! And paper making remember when we made paper with GS? We each made like one sheet. You made enough for a whole sketchbook? That's so cool! Is the paper fine enough to draw on? I remember my homemade paper was really bumpy and pink, lol. Did you gather the cardboard etc as trash you found on the street? B/c that's also a good way to clean up the area. Can we make cheese when I come to visit? :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,

Both the cheese making and the paper making sound like they'd be fun activities to try, though I doubt I'd ever attempt them on my own. How challenging is the cheese making? Two of my favorite baked pasta recipes (lasagna, baked ziti) call for ricotta cheese. My Aunt was remarking about how expensive cheese has become with the recent economic changes we've experienced in the last year or two. I wonder if making it from scratch is a better option economically?

The paper making sounds even more challenging... but what a recycling opportunity. Bravo!

I'm still amazed at how intense the Ramadan fasting is next to the comparatively wimpy restrictions of the Roman Catholic Lenten fast. There are minor cultural signs around Lent in the J-town area, predominantly manifested in restaurant advertisements (something I never remember when growing up in the D.C. area... but maybe I was just oblivious). But it's hardly taken seriously, much less something that I'd consider culturally impacting. Even some practicing Catholics will ignore the rules, or don't even know the rules. There's an awful lot of social commentary that could be made about American culture based on these observations... But I'll refrain. :}

In any case, I give you respect for fasting, even partially. Even if someone were to do it legalistically and not spirtualistically, it would still take some thought and planning. If that's true for even the less intense Catholic fasting, I have to imagine it's even more pronounced for the Islamic tradition. Either way, I think there is value in considering the food and the consumption of the food more closely. In a somewhat related vein, I'm taking an adult religious education class this fall. During one discussion, an older gentleman commented that his family traditionally has prayed after a meal is over as opposed to before. Perhaps praying at both times is worth consideration.

~Gold Dragon