Thursday, December 17, 2009

an orange cake for a winter day

Today, I am making my version of sfouf, or semolina cake to take to my friend, Debbie's. It's baking in the oven; I hope I don't forget about it. There are as many versions of sfouf as there are orange cakes. The other day, I made an orange cake, a Moroccan style orange cake, as we had too many clementines. The clementines we get here in Thunder Bay have small black diamond stickers stamped "Muroc."

Moroccan Orange Cake doesn't use flour, only ground almonds. I ground the almonds in my coffee mill as it makes a nice fine and fluffy powder. I added a small amount of semolina, too. I also added orange blossom water for flavoring. Although I was supposed to use the rind of whole oranges, I wasn't sure if the thin clementine skin would boil and soften in the same way, so I peeled them before I threw them in the saucepan. Despite the changes I made, the cake was still delicious. Rasha confessed to eating half of it. I thought to save a piece or two for my friend, Amal, who, being of Tunisian descent, would've loved to bite into an orange cake (although the Tunisian Orange Cake is different). However, the cake didn't last. Next time. Mind you, she probably would've told me how I might have improved it... But then again there are as many versions of orange cake as there are sfouf as there are bakers baking and adjusting according to their own desire.

By chance, I was sent this Moroccan music video that I've posted above. The song is hauntingly beautiful. So, too, the photos. Beautiful black and white photos of arches, alleyways, doorways, walkways, and filtered light. It struck me that I don't think there is an orange tree or any other plant to be seen, although the shadows of tall date palms appear in one of the first images.

Last post, I told you about the destruction of beautiful old arches and stone walls in Jerusalem as the Israeli government bulldozes Palestinian homes and dispossesses Palestinian residents to build illegal Israeli settlements, utilitarian style. I guess the Israelis don't find old stone arches and alleyways worth preserving.

Personally, my eye finds arches beautiful. Some of the small old houses built in the 30s and 40s in our city had arched doorways, but that has fallen by the wayside. Maybe it has to do with sheetrock replacing plaster. Or maybe those old houses were built by Italian immigrants who brought and adapted their Mediterranean styling to the north shore of Lake Superior.

To me, arches are portals that evoke other passageways and places and spaces beyond. Their circular sweep compels us to enter, draws us towards that which we know not, into a maze, a spiral. I read recently that Islamic architecture inspired the Gothic architecture of Europe, as well as medieval architecture. I wonder if the lucky horseshoe symbol came from the East, too?

Islamic horseshoe arch

I wonder if the keyholes of old Victorian doors were inspired by the Islamic horseshoe arch? The keyhole of the front door of my old Victorian style house mirrors this image of an Islamic arch.


tasteofbeirut said...

I love old archways too. It makes me sad to think of all the destruction of old homes, old archways, old ways of life, plain old barbaric destruction, that has been incurred by the so-called civilized world in our middle-east, and not just in Palestine, but also in Irak, in Lebanon, in Afghanistan, ...
Like Dostoeivski used to write "man is a destructive creature"

marja-leena said...

I occasionally make an orange and almond flourless cake, but didn't know that is common in Morocco and Tunisia! And I love arches too, so many in Italy that I fell in love with years ago, and of course all the cathedrals in Europe. It seems to me that in North America we don't value the old.

northshorewoman said...

tasteofbeirut....the so-called civilized world indeed has done some uncivil things over the years and shows little signs of stopping. Humans are destructive but they are also so constructive and creative...take your blog for example. Your blog is great! I can't believe I finally found the recipe for Kaak that I've been looking for all these years. I'm going to try it out tomorrow! thx for posting.

ML, I believe oranges are indigenous to Algeria. The city of Oran gives us their name.

Not only in America is the old not valued...I saw in Bahrain the worship of the new.