Ramadan food: ftur

In Morocco, food can be quite a spectacular affair; during Ramadan even more so. The fast-breaking meal is l-ftur, and it is a centerpiece of a Moroccan family’s daily life for the month. We look forward to it all day long, watching the clock hands strain closer and closer to 7:45 (the current time of the Mġrib Adan).
Moroccan ftur consists of dates (obligatory), “several” different dishes, juice, milk, coffee, tea, and water (note that water is last on this list). “Several” means a table full of food, sometimes overflowing onto separate side tables.

 

makla bzzaf!
the last plates haven’t even made it to the table yet!
At our host family ‘s house a few nights ago we encountered the beautiful spread seen in this picture. A plate of boiled eggs, salt and cumin to go on them, plates of dates (a must have) and figs, plates of shbakia, plates of sfouf/sillou, a really delicious round loaf of homemade bread, “Jebli” – a soft white cheese spread that’s kind of like light cream cheese, laughing cow cheese, honey, milk, coffee, and mint tea. Then, after this picture, the juice came out: apricot-peach-orange juice. Then another plate of food: milwi mԐmra. This is milwi stuffed with a mixture of cooked peppers and potatoes. It’s delicious, but everything was delicious!

We’ve seen other foods like pizza, fried fish, stuffed bread pockets, fried samosa-like things and more, but one thing that’s really missing from the picture above is harira. Harira is a soup full of all kinds of good things that is a “must have” during Ramadan. We’ll talk about it more another day. Our host mom actually apologized that there wasn’t any on the table; she didn’t know we were coming! (This was true, we showed up unannounced, but it’s completely appropriate and an expected part of Moroccan culture)

As 7:45 and the Mġrib Adan approach, more and more food is brought out to the table. We sit, waiting, trying not to just stare at the deliciousness in front of us. When the call to prayer finally arrives, everyone first eats a date (after saying bismilla – thanks to God). Dates are an important part of Arabic culture going back to the prophet Muhammed. Juice is poured, and it’s time to dig into the rest of the food.

When we eat with Moroccans (particularly our host family) we’re constantly told to eat more (kul! – eat!). These demands increase greatly during Ramadan ftur. When I’m finally full – stuffed beyond belief with fantastic food – our host mother looks at me, shakes her head, and tells me that I ate nothing (maklitš wellu!) Then she insists that I eat more. This is all done with a seriously unimpressed and judging look on her face. A wise American stops eating and claims to be full about 1/3 of the way into the meal. In this manner there’s room to keep eating when that unimpressed judgmental face appears. Eating ftur (or any meal) in morocco takes careful planning and strategery.

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