Morocco #5: Cookbooks

I try to collect a cookbook from wherever I go, sometimes in the local language, sometimes not. I prefer older and traditional, maybe with a picture of a granny on the cover. (My favorite so far: Cocinando con mi abuela, from Campeche, Mexico.)

For anyone who thinks in the same vein, may I recommend two books to seek out on your next Morocco trip.

The first is Fez: Traditional Moroccan Cooking, by M. Guinaudeau, illustrated by J.E. Laurent.

You can tell it’s traditional because it, er, advises you, the reader, to instruct your “negress” to do particular things in the kitchen. Aside from that awkward bit of language, it’s fantastically informative, even telling in impressive detail how to make a family-size bistilla.

The illustrations are quite nice, though more for atmosphere than for instruction.

(Er, sorry so blurry.)

I picked this version up at a shop in Marrakech that otherwise sold rather stylish little modern tchotchkes. Here’s a newer edition on Amazon, with an introduction by Claudia Roden. No idea if the dated language is changed.

The other book has no grandmas anywhere in it, I don’t think, but is solid nonetheless: The Clock Book, by Tara Stevens. (Here’s a link to it on

If you’ve been to Fez before, or heard about it from any traveler, you probably know about Cafe Clock, a great little hangout/cafe/cooking school/cultural zone in the Fez medina, started by British man a few years back. The food is a cool mix of traditional Moroccan stuff and more bistro-snacky things (a camel burger, for one). The cookbook covers all the menu items and a lot more. If you want to get a handle on Moroccan cuisine without going hardcore traditional and having to pretend like you didn’t just read the word “negress,” then I recommend this. I promptly cooked a number of salads and cookies out of here and liked them all.

When I was in Fez, I also took a cooking class there with the truly delightful Souad, and learned to cook up a mean lentil soup. And, utterly unrelated and entirely coincidentally, I met Tara in Casablanca, and it turned out she was the very woman a friend in Barcelona had been trying to introduce me to a couple of years back.

The world is small, as usual. And full of tasty things. Thanks to these books, I now have more tasty things at home with me.


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