A Bad Day to Buy Peas

Yesterday, being Saturday, we went shopping to supply ourselves for the coming week’s meals. Heading to our standard one-stop shopping location we bought raspberries and other fruits and vegetables (since we did not order a basket this week from La Ferme Bleue); fresh baguettes out of the oven; duck confit, ground turkey, lamb chops, and chicken breasts for meat; cream, butter, creme fraiche, and cream cheese from the dairy section; various grocery-type things for supplies; and water. We had planned to buy frozen peas as well, but we learned that yesterday was a bad day to buy peas.

Week after week, months into our fourth year living in Casablanca, frozen peas stand as perhaps the one thing which we could expect to buy any time we want them. Except yesterday. The freezer section of Carrefour Gourmet had no shortage of “Vegetable Soup Mix” – bags stuffed with cubed carrots and potatoes and peas that would give Birdseye and Green Giant a run for their money. It had bags of sliced leeks and bags of sliced onions. Usually it has at least two brands of frozen peas. In the latest homage to the Moroccan shopping axiom “Buy it when you see it; because when you want it, it may be gone,” today it had none.

Not a big deal. Our lives do not turn on whether or not we have frozen peas. Audrey had planned to use them in a recipe she found called “Chicken Vesuvius.” Fortunately, we still have about a half cup of frozen peas left in the freezer; so her dish can still erupt with peas, just fewer of them than she had planned.

And we are well aware of our good fortune to live in Casablanca when we do, with Carrefour Gourmet and freezer sections and good roads to get us to grocery stores, and all the things developing in this developing country that make living here now much more convenient than it was just a decade ago. GWA’s first employee, hired a year before the school actually opened and known still as Employee #1 as she continues to smile through her 22nd year at the 21-year-old school, recently shared with us how far living in Casablanca has come since she came to Casablanca in the 1980s.

But still, it was a bad day to buy peas. Driving home, with Brian planning to stop for gas along Route d’Azemmour we thought Audrey could pop into another Carrefour next to the gas station while Brian had the tank filled. He let her off in front of the store, then pulled into the station to fill up.

Salaam Alaikum. (Peace be upon you)

Wa-Alaikum Salaam. Bghit sans plomb, plein, 3afak. (And unto you, peace. Please fill it with unleaded.)

Mashi Moshkil. (No problem.)

As the station attendant finished filling the tank, Audrey climbed in without any peas. Apparently, Carrefour’s supply problem extended beyond the Gourmet store. It was a bad day to buy peas. We could have hopscotched around Casablanca looking for frozen peas, because we live here now and not three decades ago. But we had a few peas at home for Vesuvius to erupt, we preferred not to spend more time hunting for more peas, and we certainly did not want to spend more time hunting only to discover it was a bad day to buy peas anywhere in Casablanca.

Our posts often have noted our shared foodie passion. Whether traveling or at home, we love to enjoy good food and beverages. We love to make good food and beverages. We love to talk about good food and beverages. And we love to find others who love to enjoy, make, and talk about good food and beverages. Yesterday afternoon Brian made a pitcher of raspberry margaritas (hence the aforementioned raspberry purchase at Carrefour Gourmet) to bring to the engagement party of one of GWA’s teachers to one of GWA’s former teachers who moved to another school in town a couple years ago. The party was great. The pitcher of raspberry margaritas disappeared quickly. And among the great conversations we enjoyed was one with a GWA couple from Texas-Mexico about our longstanding need to get together for an evening making tamales with the corn husks and masa flour that Brian brought back from the U.S. last December, and about making tortillas, salsa, and carnitas at home. The day before, we thrilled in feasting on rfissa (see our 6 December 2016 post) for lunch to celebrate one of our admissions staff giving birth to her second son this summer. We have no shortage of opportunities to revel in foodiness.

But for weeks Brian has wanted to make molasses cookies without the ability to do so. When the urge first hit, he pulled up his “Great-Grandma Reidinger’s Best Molasses Cookies in the World” recipe that he remembered his great-grandmother Rose DuPont LaVallée Reidinger making when he was little; that his grandmother Elsie LaVallée Menard Kemp used to send to him by the boxload when he was in college; that his mother, JoAnne, appropriated to her side of the family after marrying Brian’s father and has made for decades; and which his stepfather has in turn adopted and turned into one of Grandpa Bob’s signature culinary items that Margaret and Charlotte look forward to devour whenever they visit their grandparents in Washington State. Recipes, and the food they produce, become DNA for families.

Beginning to salivate just by letting the recipe take him back through five decades of molasses cookie yumminess, Brian began to pull ingredients out of the refrigerator and cabinets: butter, sugar, flour, baking soda, eggs, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt…and, of course, the molasses he bought last December during his stateside visit and brought back home to Casablanca so he could make Great-Grandma Reidinger’s Best Molasses Cookies in the World.

Wait…where were the ground cloves?

The recipe called for ½ teaspoon of ground cloves per batch.

Brian went through each spice jar in our cabinet – which, as a foodie house, is a lot of spice jars. We had whole cloves, but not ground cloves. Nowhere. Brian thought, “Well, I’ll just grind some whole cloves with our mortar and pestle.” However much this seemed like simple problem-solving, it was what one might say in summary was a bad idea. Had he added what came from what seemed like days of grinding and grinding to a bowl of cookie dough, the resulting batch of clove-chunk cookies would not have won any awards, and might have lost him friends. So with great sadness he put away the ingredients.

Thus started the quest for ground cloves in Casablanca. Suffice it to say, over several weeks and through multiple stores this quest went unfulfilled…and Brian began to wonder glumly how he would use the three jars of molasses brought from the U.S. to make many batches of his favorite molasses cookies.

Then last week a glimmer of hope appeared. Audrey needed to head back to the U.S. for a brief trip, and asked if there was anything he wanted her to bring back with her upon returning home. One thing topped the list, even ahead of Tostitos and their mandatory accompaniment of Cheese Crack (aka Tostitos Salsa Con Queso).

GROUND CLOVES!!! A big jar. Not some puny little half jar. Biiiiiiig jar!

When she returned home on Thursday, she unpacked her suitcase of happiness. Charlotte had a huge vat of Mrs. Butterworth’s Syrup, prompting her to declare forcefully her intention to make pancakes as soon as she got back to her new home 10 minutes away. Brian collected the Tostitos and Cheese Crack and put them away in a cupboard. Then Brian returned for what he sought most: ground cloves. Audrey presented him with a big, beautiful jar – at ½ teaspoon per batch this would last through all three giant jars of molasses that had been waiting for this moment.

So last night Brian pulled out butter to soften, and this morning he pulled up Great-Grandma Reidinger’s recipe and took out all the ingredients…including ground cloves. The only hitch today was the oven going out during pre-heating – just a delay, not an obstacle. Six dozen cookies later, a perfect 72 count from the double-batch batter bowl, all seems right with the world, and generations of ancestors can rest easily knowing that the culinary DNA continues.

On your mark, get set, here we go!

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