Earlier this week I was invited by some women who attend my yoga and English classes at the Dar Taqafa (House of Culture) to help make chebakia, a traditional fried and honey-soaked cookie eaten during Ramadan. The invitation was offered with the comment, “If you have time. No problem if you don’t have time.” I told the women who invited me, “I always have time for food” and assured them I would definitely join them.
Yesterday twelve of us gathered at one of their homes to undertake the highly complex process of creating these tasty little treats. As the work got underway I asked if I could take video of the cookie cooking process, and they readily agreed to this as long as I did not videotape their faces.
I can understand why they wanted to avoid having their faces seen—as soon as we were all inside the house, the women took off their headscarves and outer layers of clothing, rolled up their sleeves, and fell into a much more relaxed manner than I have experienced with them when we are at the Dar Taqafa.
There was endless laughing, story-swapping, good-natured teasing, and just a genuine sisterliness among them. And despite my limited ability to speak and understand the language, I felt totally included in all of it! And, I managed to help make the intricate cookies without too many failed attempts (but we all had failed attempts—chebakia are quite hard to shape!).
All told, we made over 500 cookies, but the women told me they will need to make more–lots and lots of chebakia are eaten during Ramadan, which starts in two weeks.
For those who would like to make these cookies at home, I encourage you to invite others to help with the process. After taking part in making chebakia, I am convinced that a critical ingredient to their success is camaraderie–preferably with some amazing Moroccan women!
BssHHa (to your health)!