Food, Living

Cooking Class in Marrakech

You may think you have never taken a cooking class but I bet you have. Maybe you didn’t learn to make gnocchi while you traveled through Italy or handmade tortillas in Mexico, but I am sure you have shared kitchen secrets. Your first teacher was likely your mother inviting you to mix the batter as she made oatmeal cookies, your father teaching you to flip a pancake on a Sunday morning and later your college roommate showing you how to make the perfect margarita. Food is the common denominator, a meal shared is the ultimate communication.


A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking a cooking class in Marrakesh at Faim D’Epices. My instructor Ilam, a lovely young woman originally from Meknes (land of olives and wine) led me through the making of a beef, pear and orange tagine (a slow-cooked stew done stovetop in a clay pot), a traditional wheat and semolina bread and msemens (Morocco’s equivalent to flour tortillas).


The Faim D’Epices Cooking School is located about 30 minutes from the center and after you have traipsed through Marrakesh’s busy Medina (old town) the open landscape is a welcome change with orchards of orange trees and friendly dogs to welcome you.

During the class we were taught how to check the authenticity of saffron- rub a piece on white paper and the color should be yellow, never red. Saffron is the highly prized dried stigma of the crocus flower, it takes over 70000 blossoms to make a pound of saffron, making it the most expensive spice in the world.

We were also taught about argan oil. The argan tree is only found in a small region of southwestern Morocco and has not been successfully transplanted anywhere else. The argan tree has the amazing quality of pulling water from the ground and in the driest areas you will see everything brown except for the green of the argan tree. Because of this, goats have been known to climb the tree and eat the leaves. To check the authenticity of your oil you can put it in the freezer. Different oils freeze at different temperatures so they will separate and you will be able to see if your oil is pure.

18767221_10158757557275243_1599565076_oThe highlight of the class was the opportunity to meet Ilam. When touring Morocco most of the Moroccan people you interact with are men. Most of the waiters, tour guides and even hotel staff tended to be men, so I really appreciated the chance to chat with Ilam over lunch.

Overall a great experience!


Cooking classes in Marrakesh:

Cooking Classes with me in Huatulco, Mexico:




On beauty in Madrid…

Despite humans wanting to be practical and efficient, we are helplessly drawn to beauty. That’s what I thought as I watched the clusters of people at the museums and botanical garden in Madrid. We have a collective need for creativity that pushes us beyond ‘survival’ being enough in this crazy world.

Museums can be overwhelming. It is almost impossible to take in that much beauty at once. I like to find 2-3 paintings or aspects of the museum that ‘speak’ to me to make the experience more memorable.

The Women of the Thyssen Museum:

  1. salmon wallsCarmen Thyssen, a baroness through her marriage to her third husband Heinrich and Miss Spain in 1961, started collecting art in the 1980s using her husband’s fortune. She amassed a collection that includes Monet, Braque, Hassam, Rubens, Degas and many more. There has been a lot of social scandal concerning her collection since her husband’s death that make her life sound like a telenovela. In the museum, the walls are all salmon pink, it is SO bold and one of the requirements made by Carmen. In 2011, she also opened a museum in Malaga that focuses primarily on 19th century Spanish art.


  1. hotel roomThe nameless woman in The Hotel Room by Edward Hopper is a wonderful piece for a solo female traveler to contemplate. Here is what the museum has to say about this extraordinary work:

“The loneliness of the modern city is a central theme in Hopper’s work. In this painting, a woman sits on the edge of a bed in an anonymous hotel room. It is night and she is tired. She has taken off her hat, dress and shoes, and—too exhausted to unpack—she is checking the time of her train the next day. The space is confined by the wall in the foreground and the chest of drawers on the right; while the long diagonal line of the bed directs our gaze to the background, where an open window turns the viewer into a voyeur on what is happening in the room. The female figure, sunk in her own thoughts, contrasts with the coldness of the room, whose sharp lines and bright, flat colours are heightened by strong artificial lighting from above.”

  1. duchessDuchess Millicent Sutherland painted by John Singer Sargent in 1904 was much more than a pretty face. A fierce advocate for social reform and better working conditions despite her social status, she was sometimes called ‘meddlesome Millie’. During WW1 she organized an ambulance unit and was recognized by the Belgium, French and British Red Cross for her work during the war. She was married three times and penned several novels. The 1926 review of her novel ‘That Fool of a Woman’ in The Saturday Review stated: The power of the book lies in an emotional but extremely intelligent style, in an analysis of character which is revealed as much by detail as by words, in a feeling for atmosphere (war-charged Europe is particularly real), but mostly in the fact that the heroine is a sentimental heroine with a brain. Never does she see her mistakes quite in time—but neither is she hopelessly stupid nor a wilful misrepresenter of unflattering fact. Lonely, lovely, sentimental creature that she is, very much too late she sees the wherefore and why of foolish choice and subsequent disaster.

More than a pretty face indeed!





Have you heard of Gravitational Time Dilation?

18452419_10158668850100243_417530408_oIt’s my birthday,  I am traveling (currently in Madrid) and one of the gifts I want to give myself is more time for writing … we’ll see how I do prioritizing this luxury.

Time, birthdays, travel, aging… uff!

Have you heard of gravitational time dilation?

When I first moved to Mexico, 20 years ago, I was living in a small village, learning the language, ‘roughing’ it with no electricity and experiencing a life that was very different from the way I was raised. When I would travel back to Canada I would l have the feeling of being on the outside of things, like I were watching life around me instead of engaging with it. I thought it was the change in amenities- things that now seemed so inconsequential like whether my peanut butter was crunchy or smooth or if someone was a bit late.  I haven’t had that feeling in a while – I figured I had grown accustomed to traveling between worlds.

This trip is my first time out of Mexico in almost a year. For the first time in ages I find myself slightly on the outside of things. There are SO many people! Plus, they are all moving about twice as fast as me, talking twice as fast and many are upset.  I was scolded almost as soon as I got off the plane by airport security for taking a photo of the airport. This is the effect of Mexico; I am slower, more aware and have built up a tolerance for withstanding things not going the way I expect them to.

My best friend talks about her soul catching up to her body when she travels a long distance. The urban dictionary calls this ‘soul ‘delay’.  It is a concept that gets attributed to African tribes or native Americans who would stop on a journey to let their souls catch up. Whether this is true or not I don’t know. What I do know is that there is a feeling that occurs when we move a vast distance at a great speed.  I find myself having to emerge back into the world- from where I don’t know.

In 1971, scientists Hafele and Keating flew celsium beam atomic clocks around the world twice on commercial airline flights- once going East and once going West. The clocks that traveled the world read different times compared to the clocks that stayed on the ground. This is because of the theory of gravitational time dilation.  The weaker the gravitational potential (the farther the clock is from the source of gravitation), the faster time passes. Well, if that is what happens to a clock, imagine the complexity of the human soul!

Thanks for reading