The Moroccan School of Meat

I like to eat. Especially between sunrise and sundown.

You probably know the hollow angry feeling when you go hours without a meal, right? Have you ever observed a smoker who needs a nicotine fix? Okay, imagine not just yourself, but everyone in the city, no, make that everyone in the country, going without food or cigarettes from sunrise to sunset. Now take that vision and throw in some garbage, mud houses and the odd donkey. Welcome to Morocco during Ramadan.

By my second week, I’d managed well enough. An occasional hidden snack here or there, but for the most part the pattern was the same: starve until sundown and then eat like a king. I entered the town square as the sun decided enough was enough and the air-raid siren began to wail, signalling it was now time to put food in your mouth. I was famished. A wonderful smell hit my nose: barbeque. I walked straight up to the vendor, bought a sandwich and I bit in. Finally: food, wonderful food. Nothing could beat barbequed meat after a day spent fasting. I looked over at the vendor with a mouthful of hot meat and asked him: “What kind of meat is in this sandwich?”
“What type of meat? In this sandwich there is heart…and what do you call it, oh yes: fat”

I choked down my feed thinking how, under different circumstances, I would choke up my feed, and left the town square. A row of sheep’s heads smiled at me from the counter of the street side butcher shop and I noticed an official-looking certificate on the exterior wall just behind a long-tailed carcass hanging from a metal hook above the sidewalk. Dog? Likely. A customer brushed up against the skinned beast, allowing the certificate to come into clear view. Despite not being able to read Arabic under normal conditions, my mind was fortified from a heavy dose of heart and fat. I was able to read the certificate clearly. It said:

“The Moroccan School of Meat was established to ensure the quality of meat Morocco-wide. Its rules are few, but well-followed by all purveyors of meat from North to South, East to West.”

Rule 1: Meat must never be refrigerated

Rule 2: A mop and bucket is a labour-intensive cleaning method. A cat is automatic and self-cleaning.

Rule 3: All chicken's feet/heads should be given to dogs. Dogs must march around the city streets proudly showing off their prize before eating.

Rule 4: All meat must be cut on wood. This wood must never be washed. Water and soap may cause the wood to rot, this will make future meat taste bad.

Rule 5: Chickens must be transported live and in an inverted position, held by their legs. If waiting for a bus, the chicken must be allowed to stand with one leg tied to a bicycle or other stationary object.

Rule 6: At least 4 cats must always be present on the street outside every butcher shop.

Rule 7: Public distaste for cow tongue is prohibited.

Rule 8: All blood from animal products must flow out of a butcher's shop, across the sidewalk and into the street on its way to the storm drain. There must be ample room for no less than three thirsty cats or two thirsty dogs.

Rule 9: Heart and fat make a delicious combination.

Rule 10: All meat must be transported through crowded markets and be touched by several children before reaching a butcher shop.

Rule 11: All meat products will be hung from metal hooks over the sidewalk and must be inadvertently bumped by no less than ten people before being sold.

Rule 12: All sheep and/or goat heads must be transported by bicycle.

Rule 13: After arriving by bicycle, all sheep and goat heads must be displayed facing the street upon open-air counter tops with either their tongues hanging out or parsley/assorted garnish jammed between their teeth.

Rule 14: All fish heads must be left on the street in plastic containers. It is a crime for cats to eat fish head. Fish heads must be eaten by kittens.

Rule 15: It is impolite to laugh loudly if a tourist approaches your butcher shop, pointing to a piece of dead animal and asks: "What's this?" Preferably, butchers should emit a small chuckle or a wait-until-they-turn-the-corner 'knee-slapper' outburst.

copyright © 2004 by Kyle MacDonald



Mike said...

I liked the humour of your piece.

From late 1972 to early 1973, I was aboard a US Navy ship (USS FORRESTAL). We spent a lot of time going into port at Athens Greece.

When going ashore, in the afternoon with my shipmates, I would sneer at the vendor selling pocket bread filled with bar-b-qued goat meat, mystery sauce (yogart?) and chunk of tomatoe. I swore only a fool would touch that. However, coming back to fleet landing, fortified by way too many beers, I *always* bought one these "treats" and thought them delicious...

Anonymous said...

mike dude - that's a gyro. They are delicious. It is a yogurt based sauce called tziki (sp?)sauce.

Anonymous said...

Indeed 'Mike' and anonymous(from feb 01, 2006), that's Gyros and the sauce is 'tatziki'. It is yoghurt with herbs and usually lots of garlic.
You can get Gyros in most European cities, if at least you can find a 'Greek restaurant'.

Anonymous said...

Like, O my God cant' you get it right after 3 goes?? it's TZATZIKI!! not tziki ot tatziki!!! hahahaha and is widely available from most supermarkets... look in the dip section... And by the way... try french meatloaf... it has sultanas in it and a number of other unidentifiable artifacts

Steven Hartridge said...

What's a gyro? We only cash giros at banks in the UK. Are you talking about the delicious kebab?

When the hell did centuries year old kebab become a gyro? You'll be telling me that's not Turkish coffee but Greek coffee your drinking next...

Anonymous said...

In some European countries Gyros (pronounced Yeerohze) are called Doner Kepabs or Kebabs.
They're all the same mysterious meat formed into a cone and heated (cooked) by lamp on the outside as the new layers are shaved away. I think they're supposed to be lamb but some are specifically chicken or turkey. They're served on flat bread with tzatziki (the yogurt sauce mentioned in another comment) and despite their dubious origins and preparation tend to be delicious! Careful to take a close look at the cleanliness of the purveyors shop though..the manner in which the dish is cooked could EASILY lead to some wicked food poisoning.
Great job Kyle. I've enjoyed every word of One Red Paper Clip project and congratulations on the house.
You sure took that advice from the movie "The Graduate" - "one word, my boy, PLASTICS" - seriously to a delightful end.
Kimberley Taylor
p.s. what is with the girl who got offended? Sheesh.