While millions of pumpkin spice lattes are brewing in America, here there is only the slightest change in breeze temperature to signal the seasons changing. This is about the time of year when a bittersweet sort of homesickness kicks in.
The longer I live in Morocco, the more wildly these feelings seem to fluctuate. When I first moved here almost 3 years ago, I was in a frenzy of learning to be myself and have a life in a place where no matter how hard I try I will always be a gauwria (foreigner). I was humbled daily and learned so much that I felt like a dog constantly chasing the tail of cultural understanding. I probably still am, to be honest.
It took me a year or so to realize that what I am really living is a balancing act. A one-woman, core-shaking balancing act, wobbling between who I am and who I am willing to adapt myself to be. The back and forth between past self and present/evolving self never seems to slow; it just springs around from month to month, surprising me with sudden bouts of homesickness followed by crazed passions for the country I’m in now.
One of the most poignant and truthful articles I have read about being a foreigner is a thesis paper written by Wu Zhou, a Ph.D. student in Canada. I happened upon this paper when I was doing research for my most recent choreography project, Bodies Between Borders which premiered last spring. Since the performance was about what happens to the human condition when it crosses over into foreign territory, I did some googling on pieces written about those kinds of experiences. This work, The Lived Experience of Being a Foreigner, popped up and spoke to me on a deep level. Zhou writes the following about trying to accept the condition of “foreignness:”
To regain peace and confidence, a re-organization or reshaping of self is needed. This process is threatening, as one has to alter one’s own identity, in order to accept this reincarnation.
Boy did I ever relate to that statement. It has been a struggle to rediscover a calm center inside of myself among the chaos and confusion of Tangier. Communication breakdowns, cultural misunderstandings, and the inability to do certain things independently have all threatened my previously confident sense of self.
Speaking to my concept of the balancing act, he also writes in the conclusion,
...One has to find out the new connection between one’s present existence and one’s past, and make it meaningful to one’s own future.
These wise words are exactly what I am now striving to do. You cannot totally discard where you came from, just as you cannot completely assimilate to where you ended up. You can only take the pieces from each experience and put them together into a perhaps slightly messy yet beautiful whole.
So at the moment, I am embracing the feelings of homesick nostalgia as a fragment of what completes who I am these days. I am letting myself sink into (but avoid wallowing in) wistfully shutting my eyes and imagining that crisp fall smell in Minneapolis, when the lakes become sharper blue in the cool air and leaves turn to fire and crumple.
To share a slice of my nostalgia with Marouan (because that’s what marriage is about, right?) I decided to bake the feeling into a loaf of banana bread, infused with midwestern maple and made hearty with some whole-wheat flour and muesli. This twist on traditional banana bread is warming, crumbly and delicious- exactly the remedy I’ve needed.
P.S. Shout out to Marouan for helping me with the photography + snagging the first bite.
Maple Muesli Banana Bread
Adapted from Rachael's Super Simple Banana Bread over at Eazy Peazy Meals
Makes 1 loaf
- 3 ripe bananas
- 75g (1/3 cup) melted butter, slightly cooled
- 65g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp jam (I would recommend apricot)
- 1/2 tsp maple extract
- 75g (1/2 cup) whole wheat flour
- 75g (overflowing 1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
- 80g (3/4 cup) muesli (if you don't have muesli you can use any mixture of rolled oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit- use what you like, but the rolled oats are a must)
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 35g (1/3 cup) muesli
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
Preheat your oven to 175ºC (350ºF) and grease + flour a loaf pan. In a large bowl, mash up your bananas and whisk in the butter, sugar, syrup, egg, jam, and maple extract. In a smaller bowl, mix the flours, muesli, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold to combine. Pour into your prepared pan. Make the crumble topping by smushing together all ingredients in a small bowl with your fingers so that it gets coated + clumpy. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter, place in the oven and bake for 50 minutes-1 hour. Stick a knife in the center to see if it's done, or take out when the top is golden brown. Let cool about 10 minutes, remove from the pan, and slice.