Category Archives: Food

Attitude of Gratitude–Day 13–A Good Meal

Today was one of those days at work where I logged a solid 12-13 hours. Typically when I pull a long day like this, the last thing I want to do is come home and cook a meal for myself. Usually I’d be way too tired to motivate myself and end up eating a bowl of Fage greek yogurt, a spoonful of peanut butter and some granola and call it good. But because one of my colleagues is here visiting from Boston, I was motivated to whip up a meal for us so we could sit and chat over a bite to eat and a beer.

Today I am grateful for her company, her perspective and the hearty meal that brought us together around my dinner table. Sharing a meal with someone is a very personal experience, especially if it is one you’ve cooked yourselves. I appreciate the opportunity for connection that cooking a meal with someone invites. Moreover, I appreciate the blessing of a full stomach–something that should never be taken for granted.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 33: Lightening Our Loads

Today I was supposed to write about self-sacrifice, but I decided that sounded a little too heavy as far as my day goes. However, something that I can be grateful for, which directly relates to self-sacrifice, is teamwork. If you think about it, self-sacrifice means to give up your own convenience (for lack of a better word) for the benefit of a group. Teamwork, is this and more!

Working in a team means that the groups functionality must take precedence over our own convenience. Sometimes when we work as a team, we have to make compromises. But in a team, we can accomplish so much more than as just one person. Therefore, we ultimately make everyone’s life less burdensome by spreading out the weight of a hefty task upon many shoulders.

The idea of lightening our load through teamwork is what I am grateful for today. Whether it is a physical or mental task, a personal issue or a collective issue, sharing it with others makes it easier. Today in particular I have two very different examples of how teamwork has worked to my benefit. The first is very evident, as it happened in the work place–a common space for teamwork. Today my staff and I sat down together and re-divvied up our tasks. We will be working together over the next few weeks to train each other on how to do the new tasks. The goal of re-delegating was to freshen up the environment and breathe some enthusiasm into what had become wrote and mundane. We all agreed that this would take some work to learn our new tasks, but that ultimately the team would function better once we had our new routines mastered.

My second example relates more to emotional teamwork. I don’t know if this is even a thing, but I’m sure somewhere in a psychology journal someone wrote the obvious: sharing an emotional burden with a friend, family or stranger helps take the pressure off of ourselves. Today, I am grateful to my best friend, Kaitlin, for being my sounding board. My friends, in general, are always there to listen with an open ear whenever I have something I want to talk through. They’ve helped me lighten many a burden, just be giving me the space to analyze and get things off my chest.

As I lighten my mental and emotional burdens, I am of course lightening my physical burden through this cleanse. I feel much lighter from the juice already! And in case you were wondering if  I was hungry as a result of the juice cleanse, the answer is YES!  But, I’m more hungry for wisdom, and the mindfulness component of this cleanse is filling me up.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 31: A New Take on the Last Supper

Maundy Thursday (the celebration of the Last Supper, which took place on the eve of Good Friday) is a little less than two weeks away, but tonight I partook in a “last supper” of sorts. Tomorrow, I begin a 5 day juice cleanse, in which I will drink all of my nutrients in order to purify and reboot my digestive system. Combining the, “you are what you eat” philosophy with some Eucharistic theology of Christ’s Last Supper, the aim of my juice fast is to forgive,  purify and raise myself up in humbled grace.

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According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, the last supper symbolizes. among many things, Christ’s humility; refusing to prove himself the Son of God, he humbly chose self-sacrifice over exhibiting external, miraculous powers. At supper, he broke bread with his disciples whom he acknowledged as his friends. The breaking of bread being the symbolic foreshadowing of Christ’s broken body, and the wine, the blood he shed to forgive the sins of humanity.

And though Christ may have expunged our sins upon his crucifixion, we continue to sin nonetheless. It is my belief that one of society’s greatest sins is our utter lack of appreciation for our vessel–the human body. In the United Sates in particular, where nearly 1/3 of children and adolescents are considered overweight or obese, large agricultural and pharmaceutical  industries are doing their best to make us sick.  Our diets are now scientifically linked to the sharp increase of  obesity related diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  We are encouraged/ duped to mindlessly consume processed sugars, foods pumped full of chemicals and preservatives, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and growth hormones; as a result, our generation is the first expected to live shorter lives than those of our parents! I find it outrageous, gluttonous and sinful that we actively disregard our privilege and participate in our own systemic demise.

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Thus, tonight, after my “last supper,” I began to think of a juice cleanse as being my way of offering some forgiveness to humanity for what we have done to our bodies as a result of our consumptive attitude. The Christ-like qualities I would like to embody–humility, self-sacrifice, friendship, love and divinity– will be the subsequent themes for my next five gratitude posts, as well as each day’s meditative intention while I fast.

Tonight, I give thanks to my belly full of  curried tofu and vegetables, roasted brussel sprouts and sweet potato wedges, and I look forward to revving up the Vita-mix, and experiencing all the challenges and rewards of purifying my body, mind and soul!

Amen, right on, shalom, salaam, namaste!

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Our Daily Bread

Qubz1 (1 of 1)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. Qubz2 (1 of 1)

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.

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Twenty-13

Dear Lizzie,

I was about to wish that your every dream come true. That you find yourself surrounded by friends, laughter and good times. I almost wished that your every cup runneth over financially, romantically, spiritually, and creatively. That good health be your faithful companion, peace your guarded ally, and love your perpetual guide. When suddenly, it dawned on me that as an infinite, powerful, fun-loving gladiator of the Universe, with eternity before you and the power of thoughts to shape it….It’s you, Lizzie Guerra, who will be granting wishes this year.

10..9..8..7..6..

The Universe

Dear Universe,

Thanks! I appreciate your eternal support and confidence in all of my endeavors. I will continue to place one foot in front of the other with a smile on my heart and swagger in my step. I can’t wait to find out what kind of wishes I will be granting this year!

Always and forever,

Lizzie

Happy New Year to all my friends, family and fellow earthlings. What are your New Years resolutions, reflections, conclusions, new beginnings? This year I am going to take to the kitchen and concur my fear of grocery shopping!

Facelifts all around, starting right here with my blog…I’ve revamped the layout and the title so that they better reflect my current life style. Though don’t be misguided by the photo either. I’m not living in the sandy dunes of the desert. The new cover photograph was taken on a trek through the Sahara last year. My subject was our Berber guide; a fitting picture to go with the title Nomad–emphasis on the OM.  I will continue with my posts, but expect more music and photographs, and (inshallah) some recipes of the new cuisines I will be learning to cook!

P.S. If you liked my note from the Universe sign up to receive them yourselves from tut.com! They’re amazing!

 

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Need anything from the hanooot, eh? The little Moroccan conveniences.

One of my favorite local conveniences here in Morocco is called a hanut (pronunciation: hanoot). A hanut is the Moroccan equivalent to a quickie mart, and there are multiple on a single city block, which offer a plethora of quick and convenient buys. I love the idea of the hanut for a variety of reasons, including it’s pronunciation, which I believe is best pronounced by Canadians.

More seriously, however, I love the idea of small businesses in Morocco. Everyone here dabbles in a little bit of everything. When asked, many Moroccans will tell you that their occupation is “business,” which to my American ears sounds as Shady as Slim. To their credit, however, I truly believe that Moroccans have an innate ability to network and seize opportunities; the hustlin’ spirit of entrepreneurship runs in their blood. Therefore, the hanuts, were particularly interesting to me because they take the business concept of a superstore and condense it into one small roadside market.

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On our street, we have two juxtaposed hanuts. We began frequenting the larger (super) one due to its relative proximity to our house, though the other one is literally a few steps further. From my doorstep to the entrance I have to walk a grand total of 50 paces. Its exquisite convenience aids my lazy cooking habits and my late night chocolate cravings. Food is not the only thing offered at the hanut, though. If you  so wish you can buy cell phone minutes, cigarettes, cleaning products, bread, toilet paper, shampoo, razors, assorted nuts, milk, propane gas, eggs, vegetables…Everything. Kolshi as they say in Darija.

I love the melange of products, the small local environment, and of course my hanut friends. My interactions in broken beyond repair Moroccan or Berber languages with the hanut boys have become some of my favorites. They try relentlessly to teach me the words for eggs and bread and butter, and then they humor me when I pretend to have understood. They never (openly) judge me when I show up in my pajamas looking for milk or eggs, and they have even gone out of their way to retrieve products from neighboring hanuts if they are lacking. I’ve developed a sense of fierce loyalty to my hanut and would now go out of my way to shop at their store even if it wasn’t convenient, just because I enjoy seeing their smiling faces thrice daily.

Last and least, because I can never resist a good metaphor, I like to think of the country of Morocco as a hanut. Aside from it’s obvious inconvenient distance from home, the country itself if fabulously convenient. Here, I feel like I can have it all with small compromise. Morocco, is a super synthesis of all my interests: Africa, France and the Middle East. Include a big kid job, great roommates, a cheap standard of living, and a unique cultural experience in the equation and I’ve begun to feel like I could stay here as long as the convenience serves my higher learning. How long will that be (surely the question on my parents lips as they read this) ? Time will slowly reveal the Master plan.

Salaam.

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In Good Faith; Eid al-Adha

Muslim’s worldwide celebrated Eid al-Adha today by sacrificing sheep.  This traditional Islamic holiday celebrates the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his youngest son, Ishmael, to God. As a result of Ibrahim’s good faith, God allowed him to sacrifice a ram instead.

Let us be grateful for the sheep who gave their lives today, and reflect on the moments in which we put our complete faith in the will of the Universe.

Amen, right on, shalom, salam, namaste.

Octopus Ode

According to my research, aka wikipedia, the octopus is a cephalopod mollusc of the order Octopoda. Octopuses have two eyes and four pairs of arms, and like other cephalopods they are bilaterally symmetric. An octopus has a hard beak, with its mouth at the center point of the arms. Octopuses have no internal or external skeleton allowing them to squeeze through tight places. Octopuses are among the most intelligent and behaviorally flexible of all invertebrates.

If Sète could have a mascot the octopus would be its best representative. Upon arriving in Sète I caught my first glimpse of an octopus swinging from the belt of a scuba clad man walking along the beach. Never having seen an octopus in my life, you can imagine my surprise. As the man walked by I racked my brain for the vocabulary, but unfortunately this was not a word I learned in high school French class. I wanted so badly to start a conversation with this man about his octopus. “Where on earth did you catch that!?” I would have enthousiastically asked. But alas, my mouth just hung agape, and it was only my expression of awe that allowed me to convey my curiosity to this stranger. Returning home that evening, I searched out the word octopus in the dictionary, laughing at myself thinking when will I ever need this word again…it would be sooner rather than later.

The French language, never ceasing to amaze me, has two words for octopus: la pieuvre, if you are referring to the living eight armed creature OR le poulpe, if you are referring to a less happy, yet oh-so-tasty, cooked octopus. (Note the difference in the gender of the nouns… this screws with me ALL the time.) This invertebrate is deeply appreciated here, and it has even brought some culinary fame to this little port town. La tielle Sétoise, is a much more appetizing name than octopus pie, but patatoe-pahtahto. La tielle is a spicy octopus ragoût clothed in a sweet wine-flavored pastry dough, and eating it is a rather religious experience. I had it for dinner the other night, for lunch today and I may go back for more tomorrow.

Furthermore, this sea creature makes a lovely metaphor for my séjour in Sète. As of recent I have been noticing the symmetry between my hometown, Stowe, and Sète. They are both charming and picturesque, dependent on tourism, and containing a deeply proud and unique native population. It might seem like I’m comparing apples with oranges, but fisherman and farmer are not really so different after all. One lives humbly from the sea, the other from the land. Another comparison I’ve drawn between Stowe and Sète is that one person’s business is everyone’s business, and the arrival of a foreigner like myself has not gone unnoticed. It’s not shocking, yet after passing four years disguised in a blanket of San Franciscan fog, my taste for small town fame has faded measurably. This is not to say I’m famous here, but people know I exist. The few French friends that I have made here are local Sétois with expansive networks…what’s more, I work in a well known local bar in centre ville. Meeting someone for the first time here, I am greeted with, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard about you, you’re that American girl.” I didn’t quite know how to handle that at first. It freaked me out wondering what kind of preconceived judgements they had already passed on me. I’ve been counseled not to do anything “too bad” if I’d like to stay out of the spotlight. This advice has been heard and I’m navigating my way cautiously.

With this advice comes my second comparison to the octopus. I’m learning to channel their intelligence. I have to stay concealed enough so that I don’t become someone’s dinner, and flexible enough so that I can adapt to new environments.  I’m learning to squeeze through some metaphorically tight spaces: a new language, a new job, and new friends…it hasn’t all been easy, but  I’m hoping to acclimate elegantly.

Small, medium, large, or American; the trials and tribulations of eating in France

Apparently being an American in France means eating until your heart’s content… and then eating some more. This was pointed out to me yesterday while I was indulging in a ginger and vanilla ice cream cone in a little  glacier in Montpellier. There, one could order a variety of ice cream flavors and the sizes were as follows: small, medium, large OR American. I had a good laugh at that, but upon reflection I’ve realized my daily intake hasn’t been exactly modest since arriving in France.

Without a strict routine in place I’ve had a lot of time to think about, search for, and devour a multitude of different French foods. Stocked in my kitchen at all times are a variety of cheeses, breads and wines. Kiddie corner from my house is a boulangerie that sells freshly baked baguettes, croissants, et du pain chocolate bien sûr. Just a few blocks further lies my favorite patisserie, L’epi d’or, which makes insanely good cookies, macarons, apple tarts, chocolate mousses, breads, sandwiches (etc etc etc…). Along the canal there are a ton restaurants and bakeries, and  there is even a whole shop devoted to the classic French fave, the madeleine, which is a small sponge cake distinctly shaped like a shell. What’s more there is café upon café where it is possible to sit and people watch for hours whilst sipping a cafe au lait. Needless to say I’ve been in fat kid heaven.

However, fat kid heaven turned into fat kid hell yesterday. Something sort of snapped in me after eating my umpteenth sandwich avec jambon, fromage, et beurre (ham, cheese, and butter) and I found myself on the verge of a mental break down in the local grocery store when I couldn’t find a jar of peanut butter anywhere. It may seem strange that I’ve formerly described all the amazing eats in my town and here I am complaining that I can’t find peanut butter. But upon asking a clerk at Monoprix, I was directed to a wall of different kinds of honey, Nutella, jams, and speculoos (a sort of gingery cookie spread), which were simply not going to satiate this wild American craving I was having. I struck out at the largest grocery store in town and I left empty handed. I was like the French in Dien Bien Phu–defeated.

To put things in perspective for those of you who have never shared a kitchen with me, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a staple meal for me…a breakfast, lunch, or dinner favorite. I really really love them. Sure I’ll cook, but when in doubt……get the PBnJ out. I can’t even really say that I subsist on this treat because that connotes eating to live. My relationship with peanut butter and jelly is so much more than that, I really thrive on them. Seriously, I do.

But fear not my friends, I am not dying of starvation here AND the universe always provides. The most exciting and uplifting part of today occurred when I tried my luck on another grocery store. Et voilà I found a few small jars of Skippy peanut butter…not the preferred crunchy-oily-natural peanut butter heaven I’m accustomed to, and it was a heart breaking 6 euros for half a container, but good lord did I do a happy dance. I may have been a bit over zealous, and freaked out the clerk who was helping me… Nonetheless, I bought two half jars (you know, two halves make a whole) just in case there is some kind of zombie apocalypse and all of the peanut butter in the south of France is high in demand… though this is not likely seeing as the French do not have a palate for peanut butter, but I’m not taking any chances.

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