Couscous and Falafel

A Moroccan Food Experience


Sydney Varnado, Staff Writer

On February 27th, 2019, the Hillcrest French 3 class took a field trip in an effort to explore Northern African culture.

According to French teacher Erin Johnson, “the idea came up when we were talking in class about Maghreb which is the area of northeastern Africa (including Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia) where French culture is prevalent. While studying the instruments and culture of Maghreb the students began to inquire about the cuisine of the region. I suggested that maybe we could go to a Moroccan restaurant, as I knew of one another French teacher in the district to her class to. The students loved the idea and I arranged for the entire trip in collaboration with other French 3 students from Tinley Park High School.”

U.S. Library of Congress

To create a deeper experience, Ms. Johnson decided to add stops at the Chicago French Market as well as the Art Institute of Chicago. At the French Market, students were able to try different types of food popular in France such as croque monsieurs, crepes, and macarons. Tatyana Turner, a senior at Hillcrest High School, stated that her strawberry macaron was
the “best thing I have ever tasted in my entire life” claiming that the flavor was strong yet delicate. After the French Market, we went to the Art Institute to discover the “Arts of Africa Exhibit.” There we were able to see funeral and war masks as well as jewelry, some dating back thousands of years. I personally found it very interesting to see some of the things that I often see in history class and learned about in AP Geography in person. A lot of the statues and clothing that they had on display I found beautiful with their unique coloring and designs.

Baklava: A Moroccan desert composed of pistachios, syrup, and choux pastry.

The final stop on the trip was the much anticipated Moroccan restaurant: Couscous. When we arrived the appetizers were displayed on the tables in a quite pretty array. The restaurants owner’s wife, who spoke French, immediately came out to great us and serve us drinks. The appetizers included hummus, tabbouleh, and of course, falafel. While I was well acquainted with hummus, I had never tried tabbouleh or falafel. I personally found the falafel good but a food I could pass on. Some students such as Aniya Reed found it to be “an acquired taste” while others asked for a to-go box to take some home.

Overall, I think that while the appetizers were decent, most of the students, including myself, probably wouldn’t be in a hurry to try it again. The next dish that was served was the entree. The owner and his wife brought out huge plates of couscous and chicken as well as plates of chicken and rice. The food bursting with flavor that was new to most of the palettes at my table but yet carried similarities that it was a ginormous culture shock. To say the least, I found the entreés to delicious. I would assume the rest of the group though so as well because they piled through their plates and as the time was nearing to leave, they shoveled the colorful foods into to-go boxes to share with their families and friends.The final step of our meal was desert. As Madam B, the French teacher from Tinley Park High School, walked around serving the rest of the students their baklava and mint tea, my friends and I dug in. The dish made with pistachios, layers of phyllo pastry, and syrup was overwhelmingly sweet to the immediate taste. However, upon trying trying it alongside the mint tea it was surprisingly pleasant.

Chicago French Market

Ultimately, I believe this field trip was probably the one I’ve enjoyed the most out of my four years here at Hillcrest High School. I think it was a great idea to open our students minds to the new ideas and cultures of Maghreb and France in general. Even non-French 3 students were able to benefit from the experience. Jovencio Daguio, a senior and former Spanish student, was allowed to come on the trip. He said that he “enjoyed the macarons, the architectural exhibits I was able to visit at the Art Institute, and the food at at Moroccan restaurant. I really appreciated being allowed on trip to learn about a culture I had never experienced before. It really opened my eyes to what the world has to offer and made me want to explore even more.”

I hope that Ms. Johnson makes a tradition out of this trip and hopefully inspires other teachers to expose their students to new cultures and ideas.