This time last week I was in Morocco, surrounded by vivid colors, a light sun, golden sand, and a culture that only vaguely resembled the one that I’m used to.
The opportunity to travel to Morocco came up suddenly and I seized it, thinking that it would be great to say that I’ve been there. I arrived with many preconceived notions, but I soon found myself falling in love with this country. The differences of this land and my own were glaring at first and I couldn’t help but think of these differences as negative. As the days passed, however, and I was able to experience more of the beauty, the food, the people, and the culture in general, I saw those differences positively.
With each new place we visited I came to expect the welcoming dramatic pour of mint tea. Brewed strong and sweet, this tea became a symbol of hospitality and love. As we left a place, we received the customary kiss on each cheek. Although I found myself initially trying to pull away from this embrace, I discovered that I left it a better, more tender me. I embraced the simple lifestyle and I savored each moment for what it was, not thinking of what I should be doing and where I was going next. The Moroccan people helped to teach me that a meaningful life is best lived simply, not watered down when stress and pressure tend to dilute.
In light of this experience, I am reminded to be vulnerable and willing to allow others to continue to shape me. As much as I try to convince myself that I have this life figured out, I still have an incredible amount to learn, and in reality I hope I never stop learning. Allowing myself to be open to new experiences and open for change, I am able to become a much more rich individual because I am shaped by God’s creation that is ultimately a reflection of His image.
On a more practical level, this idea also translates to my Thanksgiving table. As I prepare for a meal designed around the idea of giving thanks, I am thankful for the experience I had in Morocco and the flavors and ingredients enjoyed there. I am eager to let my food be influenced by that place with ingredients like dates, saffron, dried apricots, cumin, paprika, olives, and preserved lemon.
I wish you all a very flavorful Thanksgiving season. One that is rich in new tastes and new experiences.
by Ashley Rodriguez
Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom. Read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com