Sweetness and Light

Naomi Duguid/Asia Access

It was a hot summer day when I came across a display of freshly picked oranges and tangerines in the market of Tafraoute, a village in southern Morocco that's surrounded by weird and wonderful pink granite rock formations. The streets of the town are narrow and winding, flanked by homes of faded ochre and red. Behind the houses are gardens that descend in steep, densely cultivated terraces. Past that are miles of orange and tangerine groves, which produce fruit that's mostly exported to Europe and beyond. I asked the orange seller for a taste of one of the navel oranges. He handed me a wedge and I sucked its juicy sweetness. I bought a bag. That night, in the house where I was staying, I peeled and sliced the oranges and placed them in a bowl, added oil-cured black olives, chopped mint, coriander seed, some salt, some chile pepper flakes, and some olive oil. As I ate, I thought of those nearby orange groves stretching toward the mountains in the distance and of the pleasure that this fruit would bring to people in cold places.