home cooking in the high atlas
Many travellers journey to Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains for adventure. The terrain is custom-made for hiking and mountain biking, while the panoramic landscapes provide a brilliant backdrop for photography. But on a recent visit to Morocco, Intrepid’s Jo Stewart discovered that one of her favourite High Atlas real life experiences was the food…
“Being exposed to good home cooking is one of the advantages of staying with a local family. I was treated to homemade pastries smothered in locally-sourced honey, just-baked bread complimented by freshly-churned butter, preserved olives, juicy cherries straight from the front yard and zesty oranges dusted with cinnamon.
Unsure whether this taste sensation was due to the clean mountain air, my desperate post-hike need for fuel, or just the result of my tastebuds taking on a holiday glow, I start asking about the produce and reflecting on the supply chain.
Most food is sourced locally, grown organically, not interfered with and eaten in season. Little is imported (except the ever-popular ‘Laughing Cow’ cheese). Quite simply, the food is honest. Coming from a place where food is pre-prepared, packaged, ready-to-go and often from dubious origins, Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains is a reminder of how good food is usually achieved easily and how so many societies have got it so very wrong. In the western world, the provenance of most of what we put in our mouths is a mystery – we have no idea where it has come from, how long it’s been on the shelf or how far its travelled.
Each day of the High Atlas homestay on my Intrepid trip, the thing I looked forward to most was the food. And my gracious hosts didn’t let me down, providing a daily cornucopia of carefully arranged fresh salads, flavoursome tajines, and of course, endless refills of mint tea. My local host is amazed (and probably secretly horrified) at the concept of microwavable instant couscous, which he says simply “is not couscous.” And having tasted the traditional Moroccan version (which takes three hours to prepare), I can verify that statement!”
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* photo by Jo Stewart