I often write about the ‘sauce’ often on our Facebook wall. I write about the sauce because it is made almost daily and it is one of the most labor intensive things I prepare. You could say the sauce is my culinary equivalent to a lover. Like a lover, I need it, I love and hate it and spend much time with it. It is a Charmilla recipe as old as Morocco and I imagine every Moroccan family has a variation of it. It is so versatile that it can be used for half of the dishes Moroccans cook. It is, as someone at the trailer pointed out, a ‘tomato reduction’ but to me it is much more.
When I first saw it made I was with my husband in a tiny apartment on North Lamar. He was making a simple Moroccan classic; tomatoes and eggs. He started with the tomato sauce. He peeled each tomato meticulously, and when I asked him why (my mother never took the time to peel tomatoes) he said “because that is the way my family does it”. It was a reoccurring answer to my questions regarding Moroccan cooking.
Being so unabashedly in love with Abdu I set about ‘becoming’ a Moroccan woman. I knew instinctively that food would be a portal to his world; and I was right. I have since made many other Moroccan dishes but none of them are as nostalgic as the sauce. The sauce was the first thing Abdu ever taught me and it has been the thing we eat when we are poor and when we are in clover. It is good with eggs, fish, beef and just by itself. It is tied to a memory of new love and the beginning of an epic food journey.
I make the sauce for The Flying Carpet, and to be honest the sauce and I almost broke up when Abdu and I first opened the trailer. Making it in large quantities was quite an ordeal. Peeling that many tomatoes was tough not to mention all the other things the sauce requires. I became resentful of the sauce. Abdu was irritated and I was despondent. For a time I was making sauce with my hands and my head but not my heart. Like many things in life, with time and practice comes ease, and the sauce was no exception. I got good at making large batches. I rediscovered my love for the sauce and in doing so felt stronger in my own convictions to never cut corners when making it. Abdu was right.