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Photo: Jenene Chesbrough

I’m no stranger to shoving breasts in my mouth. Mainly, they’ve hailed from chickens, whose plump flesh is batter-dipped and fried till crisp. But decades of devouring crunchy cluckers barely prepared me for northern Africa’s favorite breast meat.

A few years ago, I vacationed in Morocco. The trip was my fiancée’s fancy, but her vegetarianism made her a terrible dining partner in a country consumed with camel, lamb, and seafood. Upon arriving in dusty, sun-baked Marrakesh, our stomachs growled like packs of angry dogs. We’d spent 14 hours in transit, with little sustenance save for airplane food and, during a layover in Brussels, bottles of monk-made Orval and Trappists Rochefort ale—which we drank at 7 a.m.

After showering, my fiancée and I toddled to the teeming city’s chaotic heart: Djemaa El Fna. The expansive public square bristles with snake charmers, henna artists, zooming scooters, and street vendors, their grills’ aromatic smoke covering the proceedings like a shroud. After every evening’s Islamic call to prayer, numbered food stalls materialize in regimented rows. Sweaty chefs in white smocks ignite stoves and stack hills of veggies and skewered kebabs.

We began with bowls of chickpea-packed harira soup, followed by thin loaves of bread split and stuffed with hard-boiled eggs and potatoes, then sprinkled with cumin and piquant harissa. The lady satisfied, I decided to indulge my carnivorous desires. That meant severed sheep heads, their teeth locked in macabre smiles. The craniums were sold by the quarter, half and whole. Not sure how much I could consume, I ordered a quarter cranium.

The cook dunked the head in an oily stockpot, then hacked it apart as casually as a serial killer—jawbone shattered, brain matter and eyeballs splattered like gray jam. Grisly spectacle aside, the meat shards were rich and satisfying, provided I ignored the blackened, broken eye socket staring my way accusingly. After picking the bones clean, I turned my attention to a ham-size hunk of meat the color of flan. “Woman’s tit,” the cook said. Woman’s tit? Ah, a breast! I requested one order.

The breast was hacked into bite-size nubs and plated. I grabbed a chunk and tossed it between my molars. The meat was baby-soft and sensually luscious. This was unlike any breast I’d ever eaten. I poked at the supple, yielding meat. It reminded me a lot of—oh, no. The dots connected like a terrible constellation. I was eating a sheep’s breast, the nipple-covered mammary gland fit for suckling lambs.

“No,” I moaned. I envisioned a mama sheep bleating mournfully, unable to feed her offspring, their tiny mouths grasping for nipples now entering my digestive tract.

Dining abroad is about escaping your culinary comfort zone by opening your mind—and mouth—to newfangled foodstuffs. In Beijing, I devoured a rooster’s gelatinous, chewy cockscomb. In Kazakhstan, I consumed rawhide-tough horse jerky. But here in Marrakesh, I couldn’t stomach tit. I guess I’m no breast man after all. 


 

What’s the grossest thing you’ve ever eaten? Spill your guts in the comments.