I realized the implications of Canada’s location in the world as a northern country with a short growing season when in Rabat, I was able to buy a kilo of strawberries for 8 dirhams, or just over 1$. While we are moving into Canada’s optimal fruit growing period, the days of 6$ quarts of strawberries still haunt me.
Logically thinking, it surprises me to see Canadian grocery stores stocking the sheer volume of produce that they do. Rows and rows of any kind of fruit imaginable, even ones that aren’t in season. In Rabat, the fruit store owner advised us to try a certain kind of fruit, that we have yet to find the English translation of, before it’s one month availability ended – there was no way they would be able to stock it after that. While as a Canadian I was so used to being able to have my blueberries flown to me from Mexico in the middle of February, this made a lot more sense. I realized that the trend of “eating local” wasn’t really a concept in Morocco, as by necessity everything was more or less already locally grown. And when it was gone, it was gone.
In Canadian grocery store meat departments, everything is pre-packaged, white, and sterile looking. And while clean is generally something you appreciate in a butcher, not seeing the sheep carcases hanging beside you and witnessing the butcher cut you off a chuck, as I saw in Morocco, somehow makes it… less authentic. As a society, we are so dissociated from the whole butchery of the animals we eat. It seems cruel to see the goats’ heads lying on the ground outside the butcher shop, but is buying ground meat in a white Styrofoam package somehow better? The reminder that the chunk of meat we eat used to be a living, breathing animal seems to be too much for us. Driving around not only the mountains, but the city as well, there were so many people herding goats and sheep – these were definitely “free-range” and “grass-fed” animals. As a person or family will not have enormous amounts of animals typical of factory farming, they show an enormous amount of respect to these animals. Their livelihood depends on it. This is a heck of a lot different from the meat that just shows up, wrapped in plastic, in the grocery store. Moroccan butchers don’t handle the sheer volume of meat that grocery chains in Canada do, and thus are more likely to know the origin of every animal in their shop.
I’m not saying I was or am immune to the dissociation between consumer and consumed. It is so much easier to close our eyes, to call the butchery practices in Morocco backwards or cruel while snacking on our Costco bought, origin unknown, lamb-chops without a second thought. And while I’ve thought about the ethics of the meat I purchase before, I’ve always had that excuse in my back-pocket, claiming “I’m a student! I can’t afford to eat as ethically as I want to!” But if not now, when? This trip has taught me so many things, and made me aim to do and learn so many more. One of those things is definitely to try and be more connected to the food I eat, by eating locally, in season, and from farms that respect their animals. I’m excited to eat riper produce and to support those living around me.