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I believe that where you are, in physical space, plays some roll in how much you enjoy your food. Tuna in Victoria and tuna in Tokyo may both be swell, but I think they also must be *different*. Part of this difference, for some foods, can be credited to eating local–fresh off the farm/tree/boat just tastes better. Some other part, no doubt, is the smells in the air and the sun on your face (or lack there of) when you’re eating the dish. Which is all just a prelude to me telling you that while the florida orange juice growers would wish that today, National Orange Juice Day, you crack open a fresh carton, I wish to take you on a far more exotic trip in search of the perfect glass.
Where are we headed? East. No, farther than Winnipeg. MUCH farther. Our stop is Morocco…. Marrakech to be exact. Where the streets and boulevards are planted with orange and other citrus trees, and early in the day, the veggie markets are dominated by piles of fresh oranges.
But Marrakesh and its orange juice, isn’t a daytime story. In the evening, the centre of the old city comes alive, and those oranges fulfill their destiny amongst food stalls, snake charmers, storytellers, henna artists, monkeys, acrobats, medicine men, jugglers, musicians, pickpockets in the huge square of Djemaa el Fna. Nights here are what cities must have been like back in medieval times. By day the square is relatively quiet and empty; as evening approaches the crowds gather and the food stalls are set up. As night falls, thousands of people take to the streets – feasting, listening to stories, or just hanging out with friends and a pot of mint tea. In 2001 UNESCO declared the square a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”… and in my opinion, that’s not an overstatement.
If you visit, one of the first things you notice about the food stalls in the square is that one in ten is a cart that sells orange juice, and nothing but orange juice. Piled high in neat pyramids, for about $0.30, you can get a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice while you wait, or bring your water bottle and take it to go. The juice is sweet – sweeter than you would get from squeezing oranges from a store here at home, and bursting with life. And after a long day of walking the souks, it seems to be a magical elixir which lifts you up and gives you the stamina to brave the crowds and the touts and the boiled sheep’s heads. I don’t know, maybe orange juice just tastes better when you have the smell of the dates at the stall to your left, and the lamb tangine at the stall to your right, in your nose. But maybe it’s just exceptional because this is where orange juice is supposed to be.