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