Cookbook author Kitty Morse kneads together culture and cuisine for an unforgettable meal.

By Charly Porter Kusta
January 23, 2004
 Howard L. Puckett

As the sun retires over the Southern California Pacific, a blanket of sand welcomes the makings of a celebration. "A party or banquet in Morocco is referred to as a diffa," says Casablanca-born Kitty Morse. Beneath a Berber tent, she creates a kaleidoscope of colorful rugs, pillows, and dishes to greet guests.

Kitty immigrated to the United States in 1964. To fund annual trips back to Morocco, she began catering. Now, 40 years later, she has produced nine cookbooks and shares her passion for this culture with many. "If Kitty represents Moroccan food, I'm in love with Morocco," says friend Judi Strada. "The flavors are diverse and on the rustic side."

Kitty artfully arranges today's feast on a tiny, round table nestled in the soft sand. The unveiling of dishes elicits oohs and ahhs from the crowd. "First you eat with your eyes," says Kitty, momentarily holding back Seafood Tagine―a fusion of cumin, garlic, cilantro, and tomatoes. "Let's break bread Moroccan-style," she says. "Take your thumb and first two fingers of your right hand, and break." Her friends eagerly follow the advice.

At meal's end, Kitty prepares Mint Tea. The aromatic beverage lulls partygoers into a relaxed state. As guests settle against overstuffed pillows, one asks how to say "Cheers" in Moroccan. Lifting her glass, Kitty instructs, " B'saha. This means 'to your health.' "The group repeats the toast and adds, "To Kitty." Clinking glasses and cheerful chatter mellow with the fading sun, but a festive aura remains beneath this shelter filled with good friends, good food, and one extraordinary host.