Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What's A Tagine?

When I was a kid, I ate the occasional frozen dinner and I'm not too proud to admit that I liked it! I used to get happily wound up by the thought of eating my gourmet two course meal from a thin aluminum tray, the type you might have given Fido when you couldn't find his regular dish. The infamous Swanson dinner of the 1970s almost always consisted of two courses: the main event, and desert. There was often a third course, as a result of the meal...antibiotics.

I refer to the entree as the main event because it was a lot like an ultimate fighting (UFC) match. I'd spend the first two rounds sizing up the opponent, often fried chicken, before the real battle began. By round three the dancing was done and I was actively jabbing the drumstick/carcass with my fork and by round four I was ready to go for the knockout bite. If only it was that easy. That dirty old bird was one tough customer, even in death. I can imagine it gave the abattoir owner quite a run for his money before becoming fodder for the Hungry Man/Chubby Boy. We usually went a full five rounds before the judges raised the victor's hand, or drumstick, in the air. It was only my expertise at grappling that gave me the win. Ultimately the chicken won, because what he did to my stomach and colon, after the fact, gave him the last laugh.

Did you notice above that I said that the meal was a two course affair: the main event and desert? How many of you noticed that I spelled 'dessert' incorrectly? In fact, I didn't. If it was truly dessert, then I would have called it so. It was desert: devoid of life, or flavour, dry, gritty, inhospitable to most life forms, including taste buds. It was almost always some variety of horrid apple pudding, still I savoured every bite because I was a stupid child.

I'm sure that my mom enjoyed a night off from the shackles of the oven. Strictly speaking she was still shackled to the oven, it's just that she didn't have to prepare the meal in advance. The kind people at Swanson made the gourmet delights for her, and for me. I can't remember if my parents at the tv dinners or whether it was just me who was gastronomically spoiled, in a literal sense.

I hardly ate a tv dinner in the 1980s. I discovered that Salisbury steak, a Swanson's mainstay, wasn't actually a steak. In fact, it was a lot like a hamburger with extra hoof and snout added. I became jaded in the 80s. The 1990s saw a lot of new competitors enter the frozen dinner ring and I was lured back into the frozen food aisle. President's Choice, a Loblaw's brand, took the iced supper to a whole new level. They introduced us to Thai, Indian, Greek, Chinese and Moroccan food.

Did you say Moroccan?

Yup, Moroccan. For a very short period of time, the PC people at PC offered us something from a predominantly Islamic country. One day, two years ago, I was browsing the frozen food entrees when I saw something with the word 'Moroccan' written on it. I read the description of the contents, then nearly drowned in the ensuing torrent of drool. It sounded wonderful. I took it home and immediately fell in love with Moroccan cooking. My passion for Moroccan cooking has yet to abate.

Have you ever tried Moroccan cooking? If you want to give it a try, then I'd suggest investing in the book pictured above. You can order it at Chapters. Bon appetit!

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