If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

~ J.R.R. Tolkien

Is there any better way to bring people together than over a meal? The very act of preparing a meal to share with family or friends requires a certain generosity of spirit. I love to cook for people who appreciate good food. When I lay the food out on the table, I want to see people dig in with gusto, and am most happy when they go back for seconds and even thirds. The best reward for my time in the kitchen is seeing smiles of satisfaction around the table.

As much as I enjoy sharing the bounties of my own kitchen, I also delight in tasting a variety of food during my travels and sharing in the kitchen secrets of cooks from around the world. Eating is one of the great joys of life and I have never understood people who aren’t curious about new food and new cultures. Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli declared that “Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

On a trip to Morocco, I had the great pleasure of sharing a meal of couscous prepared by the hands of a woman who has been making this dish for her family for well over 30 years. With a generous heart and true to her culture, Um Mohammed makes sure that her guests have more than enough to eat. As I sat talking and laughing with her and her lovely family, she insisted that I eat a bit more … and just the buttons on my clothing are ready to snap she brings out tea and dessert and begins again!

Um Mohammed works in a very tiny kitchen in her apartment in Berrechid, blending the most traditional Moroccan spices with chicken and vegetables, piling them into a locally made terracotta tajine. Space is at a minimum and dishes are washed by hand.

I admit that I really like my kitchen conveniences. I like plenty of counter space, and I don’t cope well without a dishwasher. That being said, and despite our variant styles, I would like to think that Um Mohammed and I are similar in that we both are most happy when seeing friends and family happily eating a meal that has been prepared with love. I believe that is a common thread that binds all cooks together.

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