Moroccans love to share the meals they have lovingly prepared with guests. Like many—if not most—cultures, Moroccans enjoy three meals a day, but unlike the American tradition of eating a large supper, their largest meal is typically the midday one. If you're lucky enough to be invited to dine with a Moroccan family, there are some dining customs you should learn in order to be a polite guest at the dinner table.
Arriving to Dine
Always remove your shoes and leave them by the door when entering a Moroccan household. (Make sure you're wearing clean socks without any holes!) Before the meal, it's customary to wash your hands, a task that's usually performed using rose or orange scented water. Before starting the meal, your host will likely evoke the name of Allah, saying 'Bismillah', at which point the entire table repeats the salutation.
What, No Forks?
That's right, in Morocco, it's perfectly alright to eat with your hands --er, your right hand that is. Use your right hand, and pick the food up between your thumb and your first two fingers. (You can use your left hand to pass dishes to your table mates or to pick up bread.)
By the way, it's tradition for everybody at the table to eat from the same large dish, so don't be surprised if you're not provided with individual plates.
During the meal, wipe your hands on your bread or your napkin if you feel the need. At the end of the meal, it's traditional to lick your fingers -- a custom that's a definite "no-no" in Western cultures!
Pace Yourself -- There's Probably More Food Coming!
Moroccan meals are often served in courses, so don't make the mistake of stuffing yourself during the first course! (It's polite to at least keep nibbling if that happens.) It's okay to stop if you're really full, but be sure to let your host know that you simply can't eat another delicious bite!
Join in the Conversation
Moroccan meals are very social, so be sure that you participate and don't just listen! It's a nice gesture to praise the food, but don't gush over it since that can make your host uncomfortable.
After the Meal
At the end of the meal, you'll be served Moroccan mint tea which is very minty and usually quite sweet -- but really delicious. As in most cultures, it's polite to offer to help clear the table, although your host probably won't let you!
If you've never tried authentic Moroccan food, you don't know what you've been missing. Next time you're in San Diego, whether for business or pleasure, be sure to enjoy an evening of fine Moroccan cuisine at Kous Kous Moroccan Bistro on 4th Avenue. Contact us for reservations! (We're open every day of the week -- except Monday -- from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.)