Marhaba, nebitas dyali = welcome, my plant
Shuma = shame
My first afternoon in Morocco, I noticed a nursery stand in the Rabat Medina with basil plants lining its perimeter. It stood out because somewhere on the interwebz, I’d read that basil was hard to come by in Morocco. Smugly, I thought that less than 24 hours into my life here, I had proved the Internet wrong.
Shuma. How foolish of me.
A month later, having thoroughly interviewed several local purveyors of vegetables and herbs as to when the weekly allotment of basil would arrive, and, having questioned everyone I’ve met about where I might buy a basil plant, I was still at a loss for my favorite food flavorer. And cut basil, when I find it, is expensive.
So, when I trekked to Rabat this past weekend for a small reunion with the Fulbrighters, the first thing I did was head to the medina to buy a basil plant. And I snagged a beauty for only a few dirhams more than the handful of basil I bought to make bruschetta for our dinner party that night. After a brief stroll through the market, my new plant came with me to a cafe, chilled in a hotel room over looking downtown Rabat, then enjoyed the scenery from the train window all the way back to El Jadida. While hardly a replacement for my companions far away in New York (feline or Trout), I’ll admit that it’s nice to share my living space with something that lives and respires once again. I’m just trying not to talk to it. Too much.
I know I’m supposed to be learning about and enjoying the local cuisine – and, I am. But as a bon vivant, and a mostly-vegetarian, I can’t deprive myself of pesto, flavorful omelets and tomato and mozzarella salads. Morocco, I must ask you: for a country that eats as much pizza as you do, how do you live without basil? And why deprive yourself of such a sublime herb?
Next on the agenda: finding some good balsamic vinegar.