Argan Memories

It's taken cosmetic products by storm, but did you know certain types are edible? The difference between cosmetic and culinary argan oil is that edible argan uses toasted argan seeds to enhance its characteristic nutty flavor. Cosmetic argan is made with untoasted seeds to remain mild for use on skin and hair.

Argan oil is an ingredient in Amlou - hands down my favorite Moroccan snack. Toasted almonds and argan oil are ground together and mixed with honey or sugar, creating the most delectable almond butter ever. Even calling it almond butter is misleading, since this combination of seemingly predictable ingredients creates a sort of culinary Gestalt. It's spectacular and was always a special treat in my village, each ingredient being so expensive.

My host sisters and I made a bit for me to bring home, which I gave to friends and family for Christmas this year, creating a tradition I hope to continue in coming years. This recipe in the New York Times looks authentic (though I expect nothing less from the Paula Wolfert).

Writing about Amlou and Argan was actually inspired by two catalysts I've encountered this week. First, I'm ready Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life, in which, among other things, she uses writing and food to remember important people and events in her life. It's a nice read (& especially fun to read about Paris and Seattle). Secondly, a post to fb by a friend I haven't actually yet met including this link to a BBC story on the women who make argan oil, much like one of the groups I worked with in my village.

My women's enterprise provided a culturally-acceptable income-generating opportunity to use their existing skills-set to earn money. However, two main challenges faced the women I worked with, and I'd venture to say, many other new argan oil businesses (which was entirely glossed over in the BBC feature). Firstly, start-up costs are high, despite significant state-sponsored support. Machinery, certifications, and the cost to join exporting cooperatives (necessary to benefit from the strong foreign market) are often prohibitively expensive - well into the tens of thousands of dollars. Additionally, rural women often lack knowledge of how to successfully run a business. Lack of learning opportunities and knowledgeable guidance can be detrimental. As the market for argan oil continues to grow, I hope training and developmental support does as well.

So, there you have it - a few of my argan memories.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this Ali! The story is really great, and I can personally attest that the amlou is delicious!