It’s been a while since I’ve shared one of my “living abroad” stories, and I have such a collection that it seems a pity not to share. (To be clear, Morocco has a host of amenities compared some of our other African neighbors so life is pretty good in Rabat.)
This tale is a double whammy that happened to us about a month ago, on a beautiful Monday morning, as I was at my computer doing my work and sipping my coffee. All of a sudden, I hear CRACK! CRACK! CRACKLE! POP! CRACKLE No, this was not my cereal talking. The noise started slowly and began to crescendo. It was loud and sounded like structural damage. Then I felt small pieces of debris hit my cheek, arms, and legs. My first thought was that the building was falling down, and although I didn’t feel any trembling, perhaps it was an earthquake? Had the construction from the building next door gone awry? Whatever it was, I wasn’t staying to find out. I scooped up both of the cats and fumbled frantically for the cat carriers. Squishing two scared, jumpy cats into their carriers, while it sounds like the building is falling down, is no easy task. All the while, the loud cracking and popping noises were continuing in the other room. By the time I got both of the cats into their carriers and my shoes on for my mad dash out of the building, I noticed that the noises where dying down. It was like microwave popcorn, slow to start, chaotic for the peak, and eventually dwindling to just a lone pop and crack every second or two. The building was still standing and the ground felt stable, so instead of bolting, I slowly peered into the room. What did I find? This:
The ceramic tile floors had completed buckled. I’m no home improvement expert, so I can’t tell you why this happened, but it was crazy. Not only that, this all happened before 10am, when all my friends and family in the US were sleeping so, I couldn’t even share this crazy event with anyone! Since the cats and I were safe, I certainly couldn’t justify calling Omar out of his meeting at work. I just had to sit, alone, with two cats, processing what just happened and waiting calmly for my adrenaline levels to come back down to earth. It was a sight. When I did talk to Omar later that morning, he called our landlord to get it fixed. We are blessed with the kindest of Moroccan landlords, and the next day, workers were in the apartment to begin repairs.
This brings me to part two of the double whammy. The next day, as the workers were in the apartment banging and clanking on the floors, I was in the kitchen preparing dinner. I had a simple white bean stew planned. It’s an easy, no fuss recipe, which is what I needed since we had workers in the house. I started simmering some white beans for our white bean stew and before the liquid came to a boil, I noticed that the burner was out. “Odd,” I thought. I went to light the burner and it lit, but the burner would not hold a flame. What is going on? Well, if you’ve checked out our kitchen (click here for pics), you know that our stove runs on a butane/propane tank and this was the day the tank ran out. I had no idea how to unhook the tank from the stove or where to get a new tank. So, with barely cooked beans on the stove and a cutting board of chopped vegetables it, was time to call my dear husbander to the rescue. It turns out that because this happened during Ramadan, many shops were closed and we were not able to replace the tank until the next day. That meant putting everything in the fridge and eating out, since no cooking could happen until the tank was replaced. Lesson learned, keep a spare tank on hand. When I told my mom this story, she (sensibly) asked, “Isn’t there a gauge on the tank so you can see if you are running low? There is a gauge on the propane tank for my gas grill.” My only response, “Mom, you live in Florida, I live in Rabat.”
With that, I’ll leave you with the white bean stew recipe that did eventually happen when we got a new gas tank.
SIMPLE WHITE BEAN STEW
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups dried white beans, soaked overnight or 2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2-3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon dried rosemary, crumbled
Few sprigs of fresh parsley
If you are using dried beans:
Soak the beans overnight in enough water to cover the beans by 2-3 inches. Drain the beans. In a large pot, add the drained beans and 6-7 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil, then simmer the beans for about 1.5 hours until the beans are tender. Turn off the heat and drain the beans and set aside. Then follow the directions below for canned beans.
If you are using canned beans:
In a large heavy bottom pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, cook for 3 minutes, then add celery, carrots and garlic. Sauté the vegetables for 5-6 minutes until they begin to soften.
Make a space in the bottom of the pot and add the tomato paste. Toast the tomato paste for 15 seconds, then stir to coat the veggies with the tomato paste. Add the drained beans, broth and rosemary.
Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until the stew begins to thicken.
I like to mash some of the beans with a fork to thicken the stew a little bit, but not to turn the beans into a puree. Salt and pepper to taste, then serve with fresh parsley! This stew is great with some fresh bread or a simple side salad.