2:46 a.m. | Rabat, Morocco
The time for lunch and dinner here can take up to three hours.
I kid you not.
By the time we’ve ordered, I am ready to go and move on with the next task that awaits me like filing this blog post, being sure I’m reading 1984 with the same pacing guide I gave my students (smile, ya’ll), or getting back to hotel and getting to bed!
My sleep pattern is on the bus of struggles and I’ve been falling asleep during meal times. I think Vicky took a photo of me knocked out, but I told her I was praying and I think she deleted it.
The meal time is a production and an exercise not just in eating, but spending time with the people who one is with.
Here’s how the typical meal goes:
- noon: Arrive at location by shuttle bus, which if you ask me looks like a party bus what with the blue LED light and the playlist from Molly‘s students. If you clicked on the link, yes, that’s her freestyle climbing that boulder.
- 12:30: We are seated.
- 12:40: We receive drinks.
- 12:55: We order.
- 1:30: We receive the appetizer, usually a deliciously fine salad or soup.
- 2:00 We receive our entrée.
- 2:30 Dessert.
- 3:00 We’re looking at each other, ready to leave.
- 3:30 Check is paid, we pile back on the bus.
At school, most of us do not have the luxury of a 1-hour lunch let alone a 3-hour one.I may be exaggerating a bit here, it could be a 2-hour lunch. But the point is — meals here take for.ev.er.
Yet, I’ve had to check myself about the impatience I have to eat and get gone, ya’ll.
What does it mean that my focus is on the ending and not the process, on leaving and moving on and not enjoying the present of the people who I’m sitting with or the meal before me?
Do I think so little of the people in my life? Has my life become about tasks and not about the people in it?
At our schools, most of us have 25 to 30 minutes for lunch, and most of us admitted that we spend lunch time multitasking by making copies, answering emails, planning lessons, grading papers, whatever we can squeeze into the time with work in one hand and lunch in another. Some of us admitted that we skip lunch and eat later during a planning period or after school, when there’s less of a constraint on time.
But here in Morocco, meals and food are sacred, like the people who eat them. Walking down the street, men hold fingers with each other, groups of boys laugh and jostle, couples hold each other tight. No one really walks alone. In the tea houses, men park themselves at tables together, drinking endless glasses of tea. In every Moroccan space we’ve visited, including schools, there is delicious tea and a time to drink it, to sit and rest — not to plow ahead through the day to the next thing, and the next thing after that.
Here, most meals are home cooked and in the medina, or market, it’s easy to understand why. The chicken looks good, the vegetables and fresh oranges, a gift. The olives are amazing, and ya’ll, I don’t even like olives — as in, back home, I won’t touch it unless it has been pressed into a fine oil for me to cook with.
I don’t know about the three-hour meal times every day, but I am with the idea of stopping at least three times a week during lunch and dinner to not multitask or rush, but to simply sit and eat, focusing on the act of nourishing my body, but also my emotional health.
These moments spent with the people I now call friends have been rich in story.
I like the way our little motley crew takes care of each other, notices each other, looks at the other and says, come, friend, let’s do this thing together. And maybe that’s what meal time is about, the noticing, the acknowledgement of shared space — a space that I haven’t honored like I should. That begins now.