The Moroccan Plate.


plate (3)This plate is not just any plate. It means a lot to me because it belonged to my grandma. She bought it in Fes, Morocco, and it was used as a serving plate. Its white and blue patterns are hand-painted and are typical for Moroccan design that can be found in other Maghreb countries.

Quite simply a plate you can present on a dinner table.

It was brought by my mom from Morocco to Paris when she was immigrating to France. After my grandma died, my mom had to bring to France all the remaining crockery because we have no more family in Morocco. Everyone emigrated all over the world.

There were old dishes from my great-grandparents as well as more recent ones: two large tea pots, a couple of regular tea cups, two Moroccan tea trays and three platters. Now, they are in Paris and mean a lot to both of us.

But this particular Moroccan plate also traveled with me to Canada when I moved to Toronto.  Now, it reminds me of my family, especially of my grandma and my mom. Moreover, it echoes her own experience of immigration to Europe when she left Morocco in search of a better life and to be able to help her family financially. It was a very difficult moment for them as my grandfather died. This object of exile also reminds me of the copious meals we had together in Morocco and in France. As I live now in another country, it allows me to connect emotionally to my family and makes me think about my own immigration to Toronto where I had to overcome various difficulties. In those difficult moments, I needed to cling to something from the past.

The Moroccan plate also stands for abundance, generosity and sharing. Whether in Morocco, France or Canada, it has never been an empty plate. Always filled with pastries, fruits, walnuts, or cooked food like semolina, vegetables, or meat. Sometimes, we would put in preserved lemons that were to be served in a tajine. For me, it simply represents the Moroccan cuisine, a cuisine I grew up with. From the age of four, my mom initiated me to our cuisine and made me participate in preparing traditional dishes.

In my early childhood, I simply watched her cook, but at the age of 13, I started getting involved by peeling vegetables and seasoning meats and fish to eventually prepare a whole dish on my own. Until today, my mother cooks every single day and even is she has thirteen hungry guests to feed at home, she would cook for them anyway even without any help from me (what actually happened in the past…). Actually, my grandma did the same with my mom and my two aunts. As any Moroccan mother, she passed her recipes, skills and culinary secrets to her daughters. One day, I would like to pass it onto my own children as well and share it with my close friends. Being able to cook is part of the Moroccan culture and it is particularly important for women. Thus, gastronomy, the art of cooking and serving food, is inherited from one generation to another, which creates a strong connection between women of the same clan while maintaining traditions.

Cooking is an object in exile on its own because as I said… I grew up with Moroccan cuisine and also inherited it together with the dishes prepared by my great-grandma and her secret ingredients passed on to women of my family for generations. Cooking is definitely part of me, my life and identity. It is my heritage. Without it, I am incomplete. Cooking connects me to my family. I cannot live without it. I cook every day. It travels with me everywhere. Even if I am not cooking Moroccan dishes, I would always add a Moroccan touch whether it is spices or other typical ingredients. I will always cook Moroccan and do not plan to stop. It is a cuisine so rich in flavors, smells and colors, and it stands for warmth, welcoming and family atmosphere I do not want to lose. Living far from home and family means dealing with loss that requires cherishing of memories and unforgettable shared experiences. Plus, it is an experience involving all the senses I cannot find elsewhere, even in other countries of Maghreb I have visited. Moroccan food is typically a mix of Arabic, Berber, Jewish and Andalusian cuisine and that is what makes it so unique.

By the way, the exhibition « Objects in Exile / Objets en Exil » allowed me to share my own object of exile, which belongs to a matrilineal transmission. I put a lot into this project because it was a question of passing on my story and a piece of my heritage via a Moroccan plate that belongs to my daily life. While working on it, I realized that it is more than a plate—it creates emotions; it has a soul. I never thought of parting with my plate; it was difficult to leave it in the gallery where the exhibition took place. I felt something at home was missing. But once I got it back, I felt relieved. Preparing the exhibition was really loaded with feelings. A good experience I shall not forget…

Virginie Barrouillet 

Ce récit dédié à l’objet de l’exil a été préparé dans le cadre du séminaire de Maîtrise en traductologie, Voyage, déplacement et traduction, au Collège Glendon (Université York) à Toronto. Les étudiantes ont ensuite participé à l’exposition sur la mise en récit des objets en exil lors du 7e colloque annuel du programme d’études supérieures en traductologie qui a eu lieu en mars 2016 à Glendon. 

This story on the object of exile was written for the graduate seminar in translation studies, Travel, Displacement and Translation, at Glendon College (York University) in Toronto. Students also participated in the exhibition on the narrative of objects in exile held in March 2016 as part of the 7th annual conference of the graduate program in translation studies at Glendon.