Here’s what I do when I want to eat a hamburger in Morocco:
I go down to the Marche Centrale. Some call it the White Souk. It’s a huge outdoor market in the heart of the (new) city. Imagine a city block with shops along the perimeter, and the center of the block is hollow and contains a market. So I pass through the big blue gates, and look up at a giant chalkboard that displays the seasonal prices of the different products in French and Arabic.
The first thing that hits you is the smell. At the center is a fresh fish market, and you can’t get much more fresh than what they’ve got unless you own a boat. I stop at a vegetable stall, and manage to blurt out that I want wahed bsla w wahed matisha w wahed khdra. Khdra means green, put I point at the lettuce when I say it, so they get the point. It’s an onion and a tomatoe and a lettuce. The place I go to usually also sells 1 kilogramme bags of live snails. Delicious.
Then it’s to the butchers. They have a little stall completely covered in tile so that they can hose it down at the end of the day. A skinned goat or lamb is usually hanging from a hook out front. I ask for n’ss kilou d’kefta (a pound of ground meat) and gesticulate until it’s clear. The butcher opens a fridge at the back, where he hs various animal parts hanging from hooks, and he cuts a peice of steak off with a cleaver. He also grabs a little fat. For flavor.
He takes the steak over to a tree stump in the center of the stall and cuts it into chunks. He then puts the chunks, along with some onions and spices, into a grinder and grinds them together. He then picks it up (all this bare handed) and sticks it into a plastic shopping bag. Then he hands it to me, and I put it into the bag with the veggies, blurts out some number that I assume is 35 DH since I read the chalkboard, and I’m off. I ocasionally stop by the cheese vendor for a loaf of hard Moroccan cheese and a baguette. And when I get home, I fry up something that, tastewise, is unequalled in the history of mankind. Seriously. Spices are ground straight into the meat. You’ve never had anything like it.
Also, here, I have discovered that I like mustard on hamburgers more than ketchup. And that I like them “pittsburg style,” i.e., burned all to hell. Completely charred kefta, good cheese, mustard, lettuce, completely blackened onions on a baguette… that burger gets six burgers. (They’re like stars, but better. If you don’t know the scale, you dont need to.)
I have yet to buy poultry from the chickenman, but I saw him carving up cutlets for someone. Brain surgeons have nothing on that guy’s skill with a cleaver. Also, I bought a dozen eggs from him when I was there with a young lady, and he gave us a pair of quail eggs, free. Um, as a celebration of our marriage. Anyway.
Rumor has it that the poultry man sells peacocks. Let me be absolutely clear on this: I am very much looking forward to eating a peacock. I don’t care if it’s alive or not. Between Andy and I, I’m sure we can figure out how to get its insides out and throw it on the grill. Also, I will keep the feathers for making the worlds greatest throw pillow.
Now if you’ll pardon me, I am off to the rooftop for a spot of wine and some deep philosophical thoughts.
Oh, and PS – buffalo wing sauce is equal parts hot sauce and butter. Guess what I’m doing tomorrow. That’s right. Getting a bunch of hot peppers, boiling them in vinegar, adding butter, and having the greatest aid’sgheera ever.