Bread, the ever-abiding food staple, is a sacred part of the Moroccan diet. The frisbee shaped loaves of bread are consumed thrice daily, and are frequently used in place of utensils. Qubs, the Arabic word for bread, is eaten in the morning while scooping up eggs, olive oil or amalou—a delicious almond butter-like paste that is jazzed up with argan oil and honey. In the afternoon and evenings, bread is used to soak up the tagine juices, flavored by savory and aromatic spices such as salt, pepper, ginger and turmeric. The juices swirl around at the bottom of a pyramid of hearty vegetables and tender meats.
Bread is communal in nature, and every part of its creation and consumption demonstrates the tight-knit values of family and community, which form the foundation of Moroccan society. Bread is made fresh daily, and often baked in communal ovens. Later, it is distributed around low tables and broken into pieces to be shared at large family-style meals.
A divine reverence is given to this wheat+yeast concoction, and it is hshouma bzeff (very shameful) to waste or throw bread away in Moroccan culture. For months I harbored a secret grudge against the stale and slightly moldy bread collecting in plastic bags on the food rack in our kitchen. That is, until I was explained the tradition behind the recycling of bread. Here, the respect for bread goes beyond not throwing it away. According to the Prophet Mohammed, if bread falls on the ground, it should be picked up, kissed, and blessed. Then it should be put up on a wall or a fence so that the even the birds may reap the gifts of its crumbs.
Bread fills the stomachs of the hungry and provides energy for the weak. It gives to the people, so that they may give of themselves. The principle is simple: we should never waste food when someone else is hungry. The way I see it, Moroccan’s may observe this rule piously, not just because the Prophet commanded it, but also because the idea of looking after family, friends, and community permeate their collective identity. This notion, coupled with gratitude for all that sustains me—physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually—are lessons I will carry with me throughout life.
Give us this day our Daily Bread.