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Traditional Dutch Apple Pie and Moroccan Culture: How Sweet is Too Sweet?

Arabic students served Appeltaart at the Arabic Language Cafe

Moroccans are certainly no strangers to sweetness. From sugary mint tea to raisin-topped couscous to beef and prune tajine, Moroccan cooking uses plenty of sugar. But perhaps a sweet tooth can sometimes be influenced by the foods and cultures we are accustomed to.

Last week, members of Qalam's Cooking Club (نادي الطبخ) made a traditional Dutch apple pie as part of their long-term project ثقافة وطن عبر أطباقه , or "Cultures through Dishes." Members of the Cooking Club are students passionate about cooking and food culture who are eager to share their culinary talents with others, and this specific project allows students from all over the world prepare and present dishes from their home country through a variety of different themes. Each part of the project includes a cooking workshop, as well as a presentation about the culture that may include music, traditional dress, and other cultural elements. (See another example of this project on our blog.)

Because one of the Cooking Club members is from Holland, the students chose the Dutch version of apple pie, called appeltaart, to make last week. The members visited the market to buy the ingredients, including eggs (بيض), butter (زبدة), raisins (زبيب), and - of course - apples (تفاح)! Then the students worked in the kitchen together to make the pie, painstakingly peeling all the apples, caramelizing them, and finally mixing them into a doughy substance.

There are many versions of apple pie throughout the world, differing in sugar levels and types of crust, and one type of apple pie is even made upside down (the French style!). The Dutch style, however, is known particularly for its spices: cardamom (حب الهال), ginger (زنجبيل), cinnamon (قرفة), nutmeg (جوزة الطيب), and powdered sugar (سكر ناعم) are the most frequently used. Then, the Dutch apple pie can either be topped with a crumb crust or a lattice crust. While the lattice crust may be more traditional, the members chose the crumb crust for this week's recipe. (As someone mentioned to the members at the Arabic Language Cafe, the crumb crust is what most Americans associate with "Dutch apple pie" anyway!)

Dutch student working in the Cooking Club

After tasting it for themselves on Wednesday, the Club members served their creation with the guests at Qalam's Arabic Language Cafe, a discussion group which meets every Thursday at Qalam wa Lawh. Each guest was given a slice of the pie, served with a generous portion of whipped cream. The Cooking Club uses this Arabic Language Cafe as a good opportunity to share their recipes - and their cultures - with people from all over the world.

Where else can you have someone from South Korea, someone from Belgium, someone from Italy, and of course many people from Morocco, all enjoying traditional appeltaart all together?

While most people finished their pie almost immediately, and many even requested the recipe to make for themselves at home, some Moroccans suggested that it was perhaps too sweet - a surprising response coming from a culture with such a sweet tooth!

The Cooking Club's Appeltart at the Arabic Language Cafe

Perhaps those who didn't prefer this particular recipe aren't big fans of sugar in general, or perhaps it's merely a preference for the recipes and the cultures someone has grown up with. Either way, the Cooking Club's project and decision to share these new recipes and cultural lessons at the Arabic Language Cafe allow students and Moroccans alike the opportunity to share their culture with people from all over the world.

Tell us below in the comments section what you thought! Was the appeltaart too sweet, or just sweet enough? If you didn't get to try the pie with us last week at the Arabic Language Cafe, tell us about something from another culture you've tried and liked or didn't like!

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