Just before ten o’clock, he led her to the entrance of a restaurant near the Dar Batha. Layla, a Moroccan woman in her mid-fifties, greeted them at the door, her brown eyes sparkling with affection for Max.
“You have come to visit me again. And this time, to cook.” Max had arranged for the owner of the small restaurant to teach them both how to make Moroccan bread.
“You had said you wanted to learn.” Max looked at Finley. “So, I brought you to the best.”
For the next two hours, they both worked with Layla to make five different types of Moroccan bread. She explained not just the artistry of bread-making, but the chemistry of the krachel, a type of sweet roll with anise seed, the khobz, and the flatbreads, of which there were three variations.
When they had finished shaping the dough, Layla led them down the hill to the communal oven where they baked the bread. The smell of yeasty dough and browning crust made Finley hungry, even though she had just eaten. Layla then helped them gather their bread into a basket and trudge back up the hill to the kitchen. There she looked at each piece, commenting on the texture, color, and smell, and giving hints on how to improve those types that had fallen short of expectation.
The lunch in the garden was the perfect end to a perfect morning. The trees provided shelter from the sun that was at full peak. The red, yellow, and orange flowers offered them rich color and fragrance. Layla brought them a large carafe of wine, bread, and olives to start. As she brought out each dish, she gave them an explanation of the history and the preparation, encouraging them to eat with their fingers as Moroccans did, so that they could fully experience each dish. Finley had rarely been as engaged with her food before—physically, sensorially, and intellectually. Max smiled at the look of deep satisfaction on her face. She’s in heaven. I did well to bring her to Layla.
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