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Add a Dash of Morocco

A well-traveled Ojai journalist with a taste for the exotic will discuss her new cookbook.

March 05, 2000|ANN SHIELDS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When Ojai author Irene Day tested the recipes for "The Moroccan Cookbook" (Pelican Publishing-$12.95), she would first try them out on a pair of English friends. "If they waved their hands across their mouths, I knew it was too hot," she said.

If you want to know more about Moroccan cooking from a widely traveled journalist, drop in at Local Hero Book & Cafe at 3 p.m. today in Ojai.

Day wrote the cookbook after a weekend visit to Morocco that stretched out to three years. She studied Moroccan cooking from a master chef and learned to make classic dishes such as couscous--semolina topped with meat. Other exotic-sounding recipes include hareera--a rich, creamy soup; ulk'tban--Moroccan shish kabob; frackh--a flavorful baked bean dish, and bastela--pigeon pie that can also be made with chicken.

Besides the recipes, the cookbook offers information on the culture and methods of cooking. For instance, food is usually cooked over a small clay pot fueled with charcoal. It's not hard to master. The recipes don't really require accuracy--just good judgment and taste-testing.

According to Day, the most difficult part of the job is chopping up all the ingredients, which all go into the pot and become stew. You don't need fancy equipment--just an earthenware pot for stew, a mortar and pestle for mashing, a sharp knife for chopping and skewers for barbecuing.

Day didn't expect to be writing a cookbook when she began her career in New York City. She wrote for the Journal American, long since gone from the scene. An obsession with South America led her to study Spanish and travel to Buenos Aires, where she ended up working for the Buenos Aires Herald and United Press. She also became a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and McGraw Hill and wrote travel articles for magazines.

"I just went places and planted myself and worked wherever I was," Day said. "I was very curious and wanted to see what was over the next horizon." Her mother was her inspiration, she said. Day said she didn't want to end up stuck like her.

She also worked as a public information officer for the U.N. International Refugee Organization. The idea was to sell local governments on accepting displaced people still languishing in European camps, she said.

"Then I decided I had to get to Europe before there was another war and just never looked back," Day said. "When I came back to this side of the pond, I went to Mexico because it was cheaper living and started to paint."

Day moved to Ojai in 1983 and continued painting until a year ago, when she resumed writing. Inspired by an old editor at McGraw Hill who told her she was the most traveling person he had ever known, her next book is about travel.

You can meet her at the book signing and discussion at 3 p.m. today at Local Hero, 254 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, 646-3165.

*

Another Ojai happening will occur at 2 p.m. today at the Ojai Art Center, 113 S. Montgomery St. Storytelling by local professionals, including Peter Bellwood and Seabury Gould, will be featured, along with music and art exhibits.

The fund-raiser--dubbed "Short Shorts"--is being sponsored by the Ojai Valley Friends and Foundation and the Ojai Art Center. Some artworks will be for sale. Adult guests can meet the artists and enjoy refreshments while the children are entertained by the storytellers. The event is free for children accompanied by an adult, and adult tickets are $10. For more information, call 646-0117.

HAPPENINGS

* MONDAY, 11 a.m. Laurie Waldstein and Leslie Zinberg will discuss and sign their new book, "The Pink and Blue Toddler and Preschooler Pages." There will be crafts for the kids. Borders, 125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 497-8159.

* MONDAY, 7 p.m. The Conversations with God Discussion Group. Borders, 497-8159.

* TUESDAY, 10:30 a.m. Story time and crafts for preschoolers to age 6. Adventures for Kids, 3457 Telegraph Road, Ventura, 650-9688.

* TUESDAY, 7 p.m. The First Tuesday Contemporary book group focuses on Doris Lessing's "The Summer Before the Dark." Borders, 497-8159.

* WEDNESDAY, 7 p.m. A new Shakespearean book group will discuss the best literature from the 16th and 17th centuries. Borders, 497-8159.

* THURSDAY, 11 a.m. E. Craig MacBean, co-author of "Thriving After 55," will discuss the financial dynamics of aging and sign his book. Borders, 497-8159.

* THURSDAY, 4:30 p.m. Harry Potter book club for kids. Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 160 S. Westlake Blvd., 446-2820.

* THURSDAY. Lisa Scottoline will sign "Moment of Truth." Call Mysteries to Die For for exact time. 2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 374-0084.

* FRIDAY, noon. Diane Mott will discuss and sign "Tough Cookie." Mysteries to Die For, 374-0084.

* FRIDAY, 1 p.m. The Creative Gatherings Group holds discussion around core book "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. Borders, 497-8159.

* FRIDAY, 7:30 p.m. Pajamarama story time with Miss Mona. Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 446-2820.

* SATURDAY, 10:30 a.m. Rhys Bowen will discuss and sign "Evan and Elle." Mysteries to Die For, 374-0084.

* SATURDAY, 3 p.m. Story time for the whole family. Adventures for Kids, 650-9688.

* SATURDAY, 4 p.m. The American Girls Club focuses on Samantha. Calabasas Barnes & Noble, 4735 Commons Way, 818-222-0542.

Information about book signings, writers' groups and publishing events can be e-mailed to anns40aol.com or faxed to 647-5649.

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